Image: Biden gives cadet her diploma
Lee Celano  /  Getty Images
Vice President Joe Biden hands a cadet her diploma Saturday at the Military Academy at West Point.
updated 5/26/2012 12:43:06 PM ET 2012-05-26T16:43:06

Vice President Joe Biden told the 972 Army cadets who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Saturday that they deserve special praise because they decided to pursue military service fully aware of war and danger after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Your generation, the 9/11 generation, is more than worthy of the proud legacy that you will inherit today," Biden said in the commencement address at the storied academy's football stadium.

The morning sun beating on the stadium was punishing, but the newly commissioned second lieutenants were ecstatic as they tossed their caps into the air. The new officers said they felt prepared to deal with the dangers of duty.

"I'm ready to sacrifice for those I love. I'm ready to go. Send me!" said 23-year-old Te Jay Espe of Stanwood, Wash.

"I know this country has given me a lot and I want to give back, I'm willing to give my life, said J.C. Van't Land, 22, of Hull, Iowa.

Venturing into foreign policy issues, Biden also said the United States can now focus on new global challenges after a long decade of war.

"Winding down these longs wars has enabled us to replace and rebalance and replace our foreign policy," Biden told the Army cadets and their families.

Biden's speech echoed some of the themes of military success struck by President Barack Obama in his commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy last Wednesday. Biden, like Obama, said U.S. combat troops have returned home from Iraq, the conflict in Afghanistan is winding down and American commandos killed al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

"Those warriors sent a message to the world that if you harm America, we will follow you to the end of the earth," Biden said.

The academy speeches by Obama and Biden counter an assertion from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that the president has led from behind in world affairs. Biden said the United States will continue to take charge internationally and focus on Asia, particularly China, which he called "the most critical relationship to get right."

NATO allies this week affirmed that the war in Afghanistan will halt at the end of 2014. The final U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of last year.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Biden recalls death of wife, daughter

  1. Closed captioning of: Biden recalls death of wife, daughter

    >> emotional vice president joe biden who spoke to a group of military families on friday as part of memorial day weekend . he opened up about love and loss and went back to the day in 1972 when he was newly elected senator and got a call with news that his family had been in a terrible accident.

    >> i was down in washington hiring my staff and i got a phone call that my family had been in an accident. you knew -- you just felt it in your bones something bad happened, and i knew. i don't know how i knew. the call said my wife was dead, my daughter was dead, and they weren't sure how my sons were going to might. they were christmas shopping and a tractor-trailer broadsided them and in one instant killed two of them. for the first time in my life i understand how someone could consciously decide how to commit suicide. i remember looking up and saying god, as if i was talking to god myself, you can't be good. how can you be good? there will come a day, i promise you, and you patients aparents as well, when the thought of your son or daughter or husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it bridges a tear to your eye. it will happen.

    >> vice president joe biden remarkably opening up in very personal term ts in his own

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