By Jamie Klatell - 12/17/11 11:21 AM EST
President Obama used his weekly address to mark the end of the war in Iraq and to thank the troops who have served there for nearly nine years.
"More than 1.5 million Americans have served there with honor, skill, and bravery; tens of thousands have been wounded. Military families have sacrificed greatly – none more so than the families of those nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice," Obama said. "All of them – our troops, veterans, and their families – will always have the thanks of a grateful nation."
All U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq by Dec. 31, but the U.S. has vowed to continue to assist the country.
The president said those who had fought in Iraq taught Americans "a lesson about our character as a nation."
"They don’t see themselves or each other as Democrats first or Republicans first — they see themselves as Americans first," he said. "For all our differences and disagreements, they remind us that we are all a part of something bigger; that we are one nation and one people."
Obama said politicians could learn something about service from the military.
"Every day, they meet their responsibilities to their families and their country. Now it’s time to meet ours – especially those of us who you sent to serve in Washington," he said. "This cannot be a country where division and discord stand in the way of our progress."