Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain spent Memorial Day in San Diego, honoring at Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum and Memorial the memories of military members who died in service.
Up to 4,000 people came to the event, according to organizers who said it was not a campaign stop.
Romney was introduced as "who we hope to be the next commander in chief."
America is faced with a choice, Romney said, to either shrink the size of its military to pay for its social needs, or to preserve its military as an unparalleled global force.
“We choose that course in America not just so that we can win wars but so that we can prevent wars because a strong America is the best deterrent to war that has ever been invented,” he said.
The world is not a safe place, Romney said, after listing developing situations in Iran, China, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and the Arab world.
America is exceptional in world history for choosing not to occupy the lands of nations it defeats in war, Romney said. American exceptionalism was an undercurrent of each of the speeches delivered at the patriotic affair.
“I’m proud to be a citizen of the greatest nation in the history of the earth,” he said.
Along with McCain, other speakers at the event included Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio and retired Marine and congressional candidate Nick Popaditch.
McCain said he was happy to celebrate Memorial Day in “the most pro-military city in America.”
The former prisoner of war said he was proud to mark the holiday alongside Romney.
“He believes in American exceptionalism, he believes the 21st century will also be an American century, I am confident in his leadership,” McCain said.
A protester briefly interrupted McCain’s speech before being escorted away. McCain called the protester a jerk before telling the audience that America was worthy of the sacrifices made on its behalf that Memorial Day is meant to commemorate.
“We must not forget what they did,” he said. “Their honor is eternal.”
DeMaio welcomed McCain and Romney to San Diego, and said the city has welcomed thousands of soldiers home from war only to watch them decide to make a life for themselves.
He said it is unacceptable to allow military veterans to become homeless.
“If we ask them to put their life on the line, we ought to ensure they have a home to return to when they end their service,” DeMaio said.