President Trump praises military for keeping US ‘safe, strong, proud’

President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, stand on the Truman Balcony as the national anthem is performed during the Fourth of July Celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised the U.S. military for keeping America “safe, strong, proud, mighty and free” and used the Independence Day holiday to thank them for being willing to put their lives on the line in defense of the nation.

“Two hundred and 42 years ago on July 4, 1776, America’s founders adopted the Declaration of independence and changed the course of human history,” said Trump, addressing hundreds of military families attending a White House picnic from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn of the White House.

“But our freedom exists only because there are brave Americans willing to give their lives, to defend it and defend our great country,” added Trump, who was accompanied by his wife, Melania. “America’s liberty has been earned through the blood, sweat and sacrifice of American patriots.”

Trump and the first lady later returned to the balcony toward the end of a nationally televised concert from the South Lawn and stayed for the annual fireworks show on the National Mall. Trump pumped both fists several times at the end of the show before he went back inside the White House.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania stood from a balcony on the White House as fireworks erupted over Washington, DC. The explosions marked the end of day-long celebrations for Independence Day.

Earlier in the day, the President greeted guests on the White House lawn for a  picnic and praised service members and their families as “truly unbelievable people.”

“Thank you for keeping America safe, strong, proud, mighty and free,” he said.

The White House invited some 1,500 military families to the picnic, according to the first lady’s office, with 5,500 more invited for the fireworks. Several Cabinet secretaries attended the picnic, including embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Entertainers appearing at the 90-minute concert that was televised by the Hallmark Channel included singer-songwriter Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova and former “American Idol” finalists Jonny Brenns and Jax.