— Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Tuesday it was emotional and inspiring to spend July Fourth with troops in Afghanistan.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, led a group of senators to Pakistan and Afghanistan for the holiday weekend. They visited a military base in South Waziristan and met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad before traveling to Kabul, Afghanistan.
Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, called The Associated Press from Bagram airfield, the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan, after visiting a forward operating base.
“You’ve got a lot of people who are very far from home, doing very brave things,” he said. “There still are casualties taking place here and a lot of really brave work going on. The forward operating base we were at today was last rocketed on Sunday. So these are soldiers who are constantly in harm’s way, and constantly making us proud.”
McCain, who has traveled to Afghanistan in past years for July Fourth, said there’s no place he’d rather be on the holiday. In a video message posted on social media, McCain spoke about the importance of honoring those who are fighting terrorism abroad.
“For most Americans, the Fourth of July is a holiday spent at barbecues and fireworks displays,” he said. “But it’s important to remember that we enjoy the freedom to do these very things because of the brave men and women who sacrifice to ensure our liberty.”
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue are on the trip.
The group also met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander there.
There are now about 8,400 U.S. troops based in Afghanistan, with an additional 2,000 or so on temporary deployment.