Obama Pays Tribute to America’s Veterans

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2011 — Once again the sound of “Taps” spilled over the hill­side above the Tomb of the Unknowns as Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma placed a wreath hon­or­ing America’s vet­er­ans, here today.

The pres­i­dent spoke for the coun­try in hon­or­ing vet­er­ans and ser­vice mem­bers on the 93rd anniver­sary of the armistice end­ing World War I.

Vet­er­ans Affairs Sec­re­tary retired Army Gen. Eric Shin­se­ki, who intro­duced the pres­i­dent at the Memo­r­i­al Amphithe­atre, said no com­man­der-in-chief has done more since Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt to care for and hon­or vet­er­ans.

On a bright and windy day, Oba­ma took the ros­trum and said the vet­er­ans of today are part of the thin line con­nect­ing Amer­i­can his­to­ry. “Whether you fought in Saler­no or Sama­ra, Khe Sanh or the Koren­gal, you are part of an unbro­ken chain of men and women who have served this coun­try with hon­or and dis­tinc­tion,” he said. “On behalf of a proud and grate­ful nation, we thank you.”

The pres­i­dent praised the newest gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can vet­er­ans, not­ing that since 9/11, more than 3 mil­lion young Amer­i­cans have raised their hands and become part of the armed forces. These men and women, the pres­i­dent said, stepped for­ward “know­ing full well that they could be sent into harm’s way. And in that time, they have served in some of the world’s most dan­ger­ous places.”

And they have been effec­tive, he said, cit­ing exam­ples. Their ser­vice in Iraq has giv­en the coun­try the chance for a demo­c­ra­t­ic future. “In Afghanistan, they have pushed back the Tal­iban and dec­i­mat­ed al-Qai­da and deliv­ered the ulti­mate jus­tice to Osama bin-Laden,” he said. “In con­cert with our allies, they have helped end [Moam­mar] Gadhafi’s bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ship and returned Libya to its peo­ple.”

Their efforts mean the tide of war is reced­ing, the pres­i­dent said. The mis­sion in Iraq will end before the hol­i­days, and with­draw­al from Afghanistan has begun. “My fel­low Amer­i­cans, our troops are com­ing home,” Oba­ma said.

These return­ing troops have not fin­ished serv­ing, the pres­i­dent said. They under­stand the Amer­i­can spir­it that asks every cit­i­zen to play a role.

“So on this Vet­er­ans Day, let us com­mit our­selves to keep mak­ing sure that our vet­er­ans receive the care and ben­e­fits that they have earned, the oppor­tu­ni­ty they defend and deserve,” he said. “And above all, let us wel­come them home as what they are: an inte­gral, essen­tial part of our Amer­i­can fam­i­ly.”

Oba­ma called on busi­ness own­ers to hire vet­er­ans and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers to invite vet­er­ans in and make use of their tal­ents. “Orga­nize your com­mu­ni­ty to make a sus­tained dif­fer­ence in the life of a vet­er­an because that vet­er­an can make an incred­i­ble dif­fer­ence in the life of your com­mu­ni­ty,” the pres­i­dent said.

He urged vet­er­ans look­ing for new ways to serve Amer­i­ca to go to www.serve.gov, and he urged all Amer­i­cans to click on www.joiningforces.gov to find ways to sup­port vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers have worked and fought in remote and dan­ger­ous places since 9/11, and now they are com­ing home, Oba­ma con­tin­ued. The coun­try needs their ser­vice, “because after a decade of war, the nation we now need to build is our own,” he said.

Just as the World War II gen­er­a­tion came home from war to build the largest mid­dle class on Earth, “so now will the 9/11 gen­er­a­tion play a piv­otal role in rebuild­ing America’s oppor­tu­ni­ty and pros­per­i­ty in the 21st cen­tu­ry,” he said.

This will not be easy, Oba­ma said, and the nation must still deal with new threats. “We’ve got to over­come the cyn­i­cal voic­es warn­ing that America’s best days are behind us,” he said. “Because if there is any­thing our vet­er­ans teach us, it’s that there is no threat we can­not meet, there is no chal­lenge we can­not over­come.”

America’s best days are still ahead, the pres­i­dent said. “We are a coun­try that does what is nec­es­sary for future gen­er­a­tions to suc­ceed,” he said. “You, our vet­er­ans, fight so our chil­dren won’t have to. We build and we invent and we learn so that we will know greater oppor­tu­ni­ty. Amer­i­ca leads so that the next gen­er­a­tion here and around the world will know a more hope­ful life on this Earth.”

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