Governor Deval Patrick is in Iraq, traveling with four other governors, visiting Massachusetts men and women who are serving in the military there, his office said this afternoon.
Patrick told NECN-TV in a live satellite interview that he landed in Kuwait in 125-degree temperatures and that his last two days visiting injured troops in Walter Reed and now with active troops in Iraq have given him a greater appreciation for their sacrifice.
"I think they're all very professional. They're focused on what they have to do. ... They are inspiring young people," Patrick said.
He noted that many are roughly the same age as his own children. Many are on their second or third tour in the region and told him that the scheduled drawdown in troops appears to be going smoothly, he said.
Patrick said he had met with a number of soldiers and an Air Force officer from Massachusetts and they had all been "just marvelous."
Patrick, whose travel was kept secret until 2 p.m. today, left from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as part of a trip sponsored by the Department of Defense. He also visited wounded soldiers yesterday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
He landed in Baghdad today, after a change of planes in Kuwait. He had lunch with soldiers at Camp Victory and then participated in a call with Lieutenant General Kenneth Hunzeker, deputy commander of US forces in Iraq and the NATO Training Mission-Iraq. The governors also had dinner with troops at Al Faw Palace.
Patrick is in the midst of a tough reelection campaign and dealing with the Legislature on several key issues before the session winds down July 31. His office said he made the trip because he serves as the commander in chief of the Massachusetts National Guard, which currently has 1,100 troops deployed in the region “and felt it was important to check on our servicemen and women in harm's way and to be briefed on the progress of their mission.”
Citing security, Patrick’s office declined to release additional details about his itinerary.
Here is the full statement from the governor's office:
In a show of gratitude and appreciation for their courageous service, Governor Deval Patrick has traveled to Iraq to meet with Massachusetts servicemen and women. Joined by four other governors on a Department of Defense-sponsored trip, Governor Patrick departed Washington, D.C. from Andrews Air Force Base yesterday following briefings at the Pentagon and a visit with wounded Massachusetts soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The governors landed at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait today before changing planes and arriving at Baghdad International Airport. They had lunch with soldiers at Camp Victory and then participated in a call with LTG Kenneth Hunzeker, Deputy Commander US Forces-Iraq and the NATO Training Mission-Iraq. The governors also had dinner with troops at Al Faw Palace.
There are currently over 1,100 Massachusetts National Guard troops deployed in the region. The Governor serves as Commander in Chief of the Massachusetts National Guard, and felt it was important to check on our servicemen and women in harm's way and to be briefed on the progress of their mission.
The Patrick-Murray Administration has made Massachusetts a national leader in veterans’ services. The Commonwealth is the only state in the nation to offer local financial assistance – for food, clothing, shelter, housing and medical care – to its veterans and dependants in need. Massachusetts also provides workforce training assistance and one of the highest “Welcome Home” bonuses in the nation to veterans who return from overseas deployments and active duty military service. In addition, the state issues additional bonuses for multiple deployments – an improvement the Governor signed into law on Veterans’ Day 2009.
As has been Department of Defense practice on previous trips involving Massachusetts and other governors, for security purposes the Department will not disclose information relative to additional stops on the trip in advance.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more