President Donald Trump took time to highlight his efforts in support of the military and veterans as he departed Washington for the last time as commander in chief.
"This has been an incredible four years. We accomplished so much together," he said in a brief review of his administration's policies, making no mention of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots that led to his second impeachment by the House. "We rebuilt the U.S. military. We created a new force, Space Force. We took care of our veterans. Our veterans are happy. Our military is happy."
The send-off from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, had the trappings of one of his boisterous campaign rallies. Loudspeakers blared "Macho Man" by the Village People and other hits before Trump arrived aboard the gleaming Marine One helicopter to the cheers of a modest, flag-waving crowd assembled on the tarmac.
Ceremonial military batteries set off a booming 21-gun cannon salute as the president and first lady Melania Trump took a makeshift stage set up before Air Force One, which was waiting to take them to Florida.
"We got tax cuts. I hope they don't raise taxes," Trump said of the incoming Biden administration. "But if they do, I told you so."
He noted that more than 300 judges were appointed to the federal bench during his time in office and cited the work done to develop vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Melania Trump also addressed the crowd, saying, "Being your first lady was my greatest honor. God bless you all, and God bless this beautiful nation."
Trump never conceded that he lost the election but said, "I wish the new administration great luck and great success.
"I can only say this -- we worked hard. … We left it all on the field," he said.
Trump also suggested that he would return to the public arena.
"[The departure ceremony is] just a goodbye. We love you and we will be back in some form," he said. "So have a good life; we will see you soon."
Trump and the first lady then walked hand and hand to the waiting aircraft on a red carpet flanked by troops from all the services.
As Air Force One taxied to the runway, the loudspeakers blared the Frank Sinatra hit "My Way." By 9 a.m., Air Force One was in the sky headed to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Vice President Mike Pence was absent from the departure ceremony but is scheduled to attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.