WASHINGTON - President Obama on Saturday welcomed home troops who served in Iraq, offering up their service as a lesson of the nation's character.

"There's a reason our military is the most respected institution in America," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "They don't see themselves or each other as Democrats first or Republicans first. They see themselves as Americans first. . . . They remind us that we are all a part of something bigger, that we are one nation and one people."

Obama marked the end of the war last week, meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in advance of the last U.S. troops' withdrawal from Iraq by Dec. 31. The pullout caps a war in which nearly 4,500 Americans were killed, about 32,000 were wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars were spent.

"Our troops are now preparing to make their final march across the border and out of the country," Obama said. "Iraq's future will be in the hands of its own people."

The president met with troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Wednesday to honor the military's sacrifice. He opposed the Iraq war as a state lawmaker and then made ending it a key part of his 2008 presidential campaign.

Obama said the nation needs to enlist soldiers returning home in the rebuilding of the nation's economy.

"This is a moment for us to build a country that lives up to the ideals that so many of our bravest Americans have fought and even died for," Obama said.

Republicans said in their weekly address that returning soldiers are most concerned about finding a job and cited the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline as an example of a project that could put people to work.

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) said the project would transport 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada and the "steady source of energy from our friend and ally here would make us less dependent on energy from the volatile Middle East."