(WASHINGTON) — President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a White House dinner Wednesday evening for some 200 Iraq veterans and their families as a way of paying tribute to the sacrifices they’ve made during the 8-year-long war.
A White House statement said, “This dinner [is] an expression of the nation’s gratitude for the achievements and enormous sacrifices of the brave Americans who served” in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
The president saluted the soldiers as did Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Members from all branches of the military were invited, including those who served in the National Guard and Army Reserves.
Former Marine Eric Alva was one of several highly decorated Iraq veterans honored. Alva was the first member of U.S. forces to be injured in Iraq following the American-led invasion in March 2003.
Others attending the dinner included Army Col. Peter Newell, who won the Silver and Bronze Stars and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelson Visaya, winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Valor awards.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ivaylo Vezenkov, CNN
Miranda Green, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN