Romney pays tribute to troops, criticizes sequestration cuts

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid tribute to service men and women today in honor of the September 11th attacks, telling them the country needs their "strength and vigilance now more than ever before."

Speaking to the National Guard Association gathered in the Reno Sparks Convention Center, Romney refrained from mentioning President Obama on this national day of remembrance.

"With less than two months to go from Election Day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent's plans for our military and for our national security. There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not it," Romney said.

While Romney did not mention the president by name, he delivered a less than subtle criticism of the sequestration cuts to military spending which he has been aggressively attacking on the campaign trail the past week.

"The return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts. It is true that our armed forces have been stretched to the brink -- and that is all the more reason to repair and rebuild. We can always find places to end waste. But we cannot cancel program after program, we cannot jeopardize critical missions and we cannot cut corners in the quality of the equipment and training we provide," Romney said to applause.

The Republican nominee has been taking heat from both sides since omitting any mention of troops or war in his Convention speech, but today he devoted his 20-minute remarks to praising those serving and lauded the accomplishment of the Navy SEALs who "delivered justice to Usama bin Laden."

He highlighted the importance of mainting a military "second to none," calling an American military power "vital to the preservation of our own security and for the preservation of peace around the world."

Romney also stressed the need to take care of our veterans when they come home.

"Veterans' benefits are not a gift that is given, but a debt that is due," Romney said to applause from the crowd.

Both the Romney and Obama campaigns suspended negative ads today as a show of respect.

Romney will be campaigning in Florida, Virginia and Ohio this week -- key battleground states needed for a win in November. The Republican nominee has ground to gain in the home stretch to election day after recent polls showed Obama with a slight lead post Conventions.