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Trump honors military, calls for unity during ‘Salute to America’ Independence Day celebration

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The U.S. Navy Blue Angeles perform over the Lincoln Memorial during President Donald Trump‘s “Salute to America” Independence Day event honoring the military, Thursday, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 4 (UPI) — Surrounded by U.S. weaponry and in front of a rain-soaked crowd of thousands, President Donald Trump took the stage in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Thursday with first lady Melania Trump at his side and called for unity in an event he organized to honor U.S. troops on the nation’s Independence Day.

During his 45-minute speech, Trump told the crowd assembled for “Salute to America” that they all share a “truly extraordinary heritage” and are apart of one of the greatest stories ever told — The story of America.

“It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right and what they know is true,” he said. “It is the chronicle of great citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future and it is the saga of 13 separate colonies that united to form the most just and virtuous republic ever conceived.”

Trump retold of the war that led to the United States gaining its independence from England, and said that now grasped, its freedom will never be taken away.

That spirit to fight for one’s freedom is what made the United States what it is and is in every American, he said.

“It is the spirit, daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love that built this country into the most exceptional nation in the history of the world, and our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now,” he said as the crowd broke into chants of “U.S.A.”

He then listed some of the more memorial achievements by U.S. citizens while detailing the victories and triumphs of the nation’s armed forces.

During his speech that included several flyovers by U.S. aircraft, the president called for unity, saying the nation must go forward with the same “unity of purpose” that the country has exhibited throughout its history.

“As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never, ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do,” he said.

The Independence Day event, which concluded at around 7:30 p.m., included an assortment of U.S. weaponry, including flyovers by Air Force One, six Blue Angels F-18s and a B-2, among other U.S. aircraft.

Two M1 Abrams tanks arrived in the nation’s capital Tuesday for the event, but they were joined by two more M2 Bradley fighting vehicles, an M88 Recovery Vehicle and a contact truck with crew.

The event was free but VIPs, including Republican donors and military heads, received special seating close up.

Traditionally, fireworks have been set off from the memorial’s reflection pool at the conclusion of the Capitol Fourth entertainment show televised by PBS. Instead of being shot off from the other side of the National Mall, the display instead will be run from Potomac Park at 9:07 p.m. and is scheduled to end at 9:42 p.m. — 15 minutes longer than the traditional 20-minute ones.

“Salute to America” is unrelated to “A Capitol Fourth.”

“People are coming from far and wide to join us today and tonight for what is turning out to be one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our Country, SALUTE TO AMERICA, an all-day event at the Lincoln Memorial, culminating with large scale flyovers of the most modern and advanced aircraft anywhere in the World,” Trump posted on Twitter. Perhaps even Air Force One will do a low & loud sprint over the crowd. That will start at 6:00 P.M., but be there early. Then, at 9:00 P.M., a great (to put it mildly) fireworks display. I will speak on behalf of our great Country!”

A parade took place from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Seventh to 17th Constitution Avenue.

Trump had hoped for tanks to join the parade route but District of Columbia and military officials feared the heavy armored vehicles — the Abrams tanks weigh 60 tons each — would destroy the roads.

Even Trump acknowledged the problem, telling reporters Monday: “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks.”

The entertainment included the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band, the Armed Forces Chorus, the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team, according to the New York Post.

About 750-800 military personnel participated in the event.

Because of the aircraft flyovers and fireworks from West Potomac Park, airspace over Washington, D.C., was closed with nearly 100 scheduled flights affected, according to a CNN review of flight records.

The National Park Service granted a permit for a protest along the Mall that included a large inflatable balloon in the likeness of Trump as a baby. Anti-Trump veterans planned to hand out T-shirts for the USS John McCain to troll Trump, who has criticized the deceased U.S. senator and captured Naval pilot during World War II.

Costs have not been disclosed but The Washington Post reported the National Park Service will redirect at least $2.5 million from park fees earmarked to improve parks around the country to help cover new costs as a result of the event.

Trump tweeted the cost would be “very little compared to what it’s worth.”

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