Biden says greater diversity will strengthen the military

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Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2016.

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Vice President Joe Biden has told the U.S. Military Academy’s class of 2016 on Saturday that greater diversity, including more women and openly gay soldiers, will strengthen the country’s armed forces.

More than 950 cadets received their degrees and commissions as second lieutenants today. Among them were the first seven women to be commissioned into combat divisions since combat restrictions for them were lifted.

The vice president also saluted class president Eugene “E.J.” Coleman for publicly coming out as gay. Before the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2010, “E.J. would have been discharged from the Army, and we would have lost an incredible talent,” he said.

Biden warned the graduating class that it’s facing a vast range of complex challenges, including battling Islamic State extremists, containing outbreaks of contagious diseases and defending against cyberattacks.