GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan commemorated the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by visiting with first responders and Air National Guardsmen in his home state of Wisconsin on Tuesday afternoon.

Fresh off a western campaign swing in which he headlined several fundraisers and huddled for his first full day of debate preparations, Ryan landed in Milwaukee shortly after 12:30 p.m. local time. He immediately headed five minutes down the road to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, home to about 900 members.

There, he delivered brief remarks, shook hands and posed for photos with some 90 airmen and airwomen in uniform gathered inside a hangar.

“I came here to say thanks,” Ryan said to the airmen gathered in front of a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. “I live down the street in Janesville. I know a lot of you live in the area. A number of us have met over the years. I have been flying into this airport for a long time back and forth from Washington to see my family.”

“But when we hit the ground today flying home, this day meant a bit more because this is the anniversary of 9/11,” he continued. “And I just wanted to come with my associates and thank each and every one of you for what you do everyday, for what you do to make us safe, for what you do to make us proud, for what you do to remember what it all counts.

“This is a day we should be thinking about people who give their lives, and today what we are really thankful for are those who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe, for making our military, our Air Force, the unrivaled best in the world. It is because of your efforts, because of your bravery, because of what you do that has made us safer since that day. And I just wanted to come out and say thanks so much for all that you do. Thanks everybody, appreciate it. Go Packers!”

After Ryan spoke, the airmen applauded, and Col. Ted Metzgar, the 128th Air Refueling Wing Commander, thanked him for visiting.

Ryan then made the rounds and shook hands with the airmen, asking their names and their home towns.

“Hey, I work for you,” Ryan said to one guardsman who hailed from his Janesville-based district. Another airman reached out to shake Ryan’s hand.

“Sir, Chicago,” the airman said. Ryan and several of the guardsmen around the two of them laughed.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Go Packers Thursday!” Ryan replied, referring to this week’s Packers-Bears game.

“Go Bears!” the airman replied with a laugh.

Ryan and his Wisconsin-based chief of staff, Andy Speth, then posed for a photo with several airmen, who Speth said were some of his wingmen. Speth is a member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing and has served twice in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, once in 2005-2006 and again in 2009.

“Nice to see you guys. Good seeing you. This is great. I hope I gave you a little break in the day,” Ryan said as they wrapped up the photo opportunity. Then he asked the airmen: “You’ve got the IG here today? Where’s the IG? Who’s the IG? You’re the IG?”

A few airmen laughed. Ryan quickly found Col. John Quinn, Inspector General Team Chief, in the crowd, and the two chatted for a moment. Quinn told Ryan that the airmen have “done an absolutely magnificent job.”

Ryan replied: “That’s awesome. That’s nice to hear. Now put that down on paper!”

Ryan and his motorcade then traveled several miles down the road to Oak Creek fire station. There he and about two dozen firefighters and first responders gathered around a long table and chatted over big platters of lasagna and salad.

“I just wanted to come on the anniversary of 9/11 and say thank you to all of you who are first responders for what you do for us every day,” Ryan said. “This is a day where we as Americans need to think and remember the people who lost their lives and be thankful for those of you who put your lives on the line for us every day. So we are here simply to bring notoriety and a gift of thanks for what you do for us on a daily basis. So we just really appreciate it. Let’s dig in.”

With that, Ryan was done with his public events for the day. He is expected to resume campaigning on Wednesday in Green Bay, Wis., and Cincinnati before making his return to the House of Representatives on Thursday and wrapping up the week with a speech before the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Friday.