All Americans Owe Thanks to Veterans, Biden Says

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2010 — Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden hon­ored ser­vice­mem­bers and vet­er­ans at a cer­e­mo­ny at Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery today, say­ing 100 per­cent of Amer­i­cans owe their grat­i­tude to the 1 per­cent who serve in the all-vol­un­teer force.
“Col­lec­tive­ly, the sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines who served and sac­ri­ficed for us are the heart and soul, the very spine of this nation,” Biden said to an audi­ence full of ser­vicmem­bers, vet­er­ans, and gov­ern­ment lead­ers, includ­ing Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, and Vet­er­ans Affairs Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­se­ki.

“As a nation, we pause today to thank more than 23 mil­lion sur­viv­ing vet­er­ans who so brave­ly pro­tect­ed our free­dom,” he said. “You gave, and they gave… .mil­lions of you gave ser­vice, limb, and some­times life. In doing so, you impart­ed respon­si­bil­i­ty on all of us, as well, to rec­og­nize, respect and hon­or, and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live ours.”

Biden, whose son, Beau, served in Iraq with the Delaware Nation­al Guard, not­ed that the U.S. mil­i­tary is in its longest-ever peri­od of sus­tained com­bat from nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of two mil­lion who served in those con­flicts, more than half have returned to civil­ian life, more than 40,000 have been wound­ed – with 18,000 unable to return to duty – and more than 5,700 were killed. More than 16,000 will need med­ical care for the rest of their lives, he said.

“Only 1 per­cent of this nation is fight­ing these wars,” Biden said. “But 100 per­cent of Amer­i­ca owes them a thank you; 100 per­cent of the nation can, and must, do some­thing to acknowl­edge what they’ve done for us and con­tin­ue to do this very moment for us.”

Biden not­ed the chilly Novem­ber tem­per­a­tures at Arling­ton, and recalled being there on Memo­r­i­al Day when the late May tem­per­a­tures hit 91 degrees Fahren­heit. Those tem­per­a­tures are noth­ing com­pared to the heat World War II vet­er­ans endured in the Pacif­ic islands, or that Viet­nam vet­er­ans felt in the Mekong Delta, or Iraq vet­er­ans coped with in Fal­lu­jah when the ther­mome­ter soared to 115 degrees Fahren­heit, he said.

And the chill in the air today is noth­ing like the minus 20 degrees Fahren­heit that vet­er­ans remem­ber from Korea, or the frozen Argonne For­est in France, or the snow-cov­ered moun­tains of Afghanistan, he said.

Biden said he’s seen first­hand how 10th Moun­tain Divi­sion sol­diers scale Afghanistan’s snowy moun­tains with 60 pounds on their backs to fight al Qai­da.

“It absolute­ly blows me away to see what these kids – and they’re not kids – what these young men and women con­tin­ue to do,” he said.

“I look out at all of you who served our nation, and all you who stood by and wait­ed while they served, and I see the most test­ed among us, the most test­ed of all Amer­i­cans, and the most hon­or­able of men and women — cit­i­zens who nev­er feared the future and who are deter­mined to build a bet­ter future today,” the vice pres­i­dent said.

Biden said the thing he is asked most of the wound­ed war­riors he vis­its is if he can help them return to their unit.

“They’re send­ing us a mes­sage,” he said, “but they’re also send­ing the ene­my a mes­sage that our resolve in the face of the new threats we con­front will nev­er, ever waiv­er because we have so many brave young men and women of this gen­er­a­tion. As the pres­i­dent has said, our spir­it is strong and it can­not be bro­ken. You can­not out­last us, and we will defeat you.” The strength and resolve of ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies must be matched by the nation’s sup­port, Biden said. He added that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress “are mak­ing his­toric invest­ments in a bipar­ti­san way” to return­ing vet­er­ans through increased VA ben­e­fits.

The nation now and in the future must give vet­er­ans “every bit of the care they’ve earned and deserve,” he said. “It’s the only tru­ly sacred oblig­a­tion we have as a gov­ern­ment.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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