Reno, Nevada (CNN) – On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mitt Romney told National Guardsmen they were needed "now as much as ever before" to protect America in an uncertain and turbulent world.
The GOP presidential nominee marked the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks with a speech to the National Guard Association of the United States in Reno Tuesday, where he recalled the horror he felt that day and laid out his views on ensuring an "American century."
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"We live in a time of turbulence and disruption. What I can say with certainty is that we need the National Guard's vigilance and strength now as much as ever before," Romney told a seated audience of men and women in uniform. "This century must be an American Century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is now our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity."
Romney praised veterans for their service and vowed as president he would "keep faith" with them when they return home, with better care and benefits and the opportunity to find good jobs at home.
"Many have known violence so that their neighbors could know peace," he said in sweeping appreciation of the nation's veterans. "They have done more than protect America; their courage and service defines America."
Romney said he would not lay out the differences between him and his opponent in his speech – but he nonetheless continued his criticism of the congressionally-backed military cuts set to kick in next January. Romney has hammered Obama over those cuts – part of an agreement to force action on deficit-reduction – on the stump in recent days.
As troops return home from Afghanistan, Romney said "the return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts."
Romney ended his speech by thanking the guardsmen for their service – a remark Democrats were likely to seize on after Romney failed to mention the conflict in Afghanistan or explicitly thank the troops there during his Tampa convention speech.
"You would become all too familiar with the mountains of the Hindu Kush and the streets of Fallujah," Romney said of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Throughout the last eleven years, Guardsmen and women have helped keep us safe from attack, and the nation owes you a great debt of gratitude."