Milwaukee, Wisconsin (CNN) - On the anniversary of 9/11 Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan came to Wisconsin to meet with first responders and troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The seven-term congressman returned to his home state Tuesday after a five-day West Coast campaign swing. Shortly after he landed in Milwaukee Ryan met with members of the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, many whom have served a number of tours in the Middle East since the Sept. 11 attacks occurred 11 years ago.
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"I have been flying into this airport for a long time back and forth from Washington to see my family but when we hit the ground today flying home, this day meant a bit more because this is the anniversary of 9/11," Ryan told about 100 airmen and women with a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker behind them.
He continued, "And I just wanted to come with my associates and thank each and every one of you for what you do everyday, for what you do to make us safe, for what you do to make us proud, for what you do to remember what it all counts."
Ryan and his Wisconsin-based chief of staff, Andy Speth, posed for photos with several airmen who Speth said were some of his wingmen. Speth is a member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing and has served twice in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, once in 2005-2006 and again in 2009.
"This is a day we should be thinking about people who give their lives and today what we are really thankful for are those who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe, for making our military, our Air Force, the unrivaled best in the world. It is because of your efforts, because of your bravery, because of what you do that has made us safer since that day," he said.
Mitt Romney's running mate also visited Oak Creek Fire Station and ate lunch in the firehouse with first responders.
Standing with Ryan before a long table, Fire Chief Tom Rosandich said, "We have a saying before we eat: 'Good food, good meat, good God let's eat,'"
Ryan spoke briefly before they dug into platters of lasagna and salad.
"This is a day where we as Americans need to think and remember the people who lost their lives and be thankful for those of you who put your lives on the line for us every day. So we are here simply to bring notoriety and a gift of thanks for what you do for us on a daily basis," he said.
On the morning flight from Seattle to Milwaukee, Ryan received a foreign policy briefing from Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.