Obama Urges Nation to Salute Service in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma called on the Amer­i­can peo­ple today to pro­vide new care, oppor­tu­ni­ty and com­mit­ment to the mil­lion mil­i­tary men and women who’ve served in Iraq.

On Aug. 31, 2010, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will mark the end of America’s com­bat mis­sion in Iraq. Learn how you can join the pres­i­dent in salut­ing the military’s ser­vice in Iraq. Go to the White House web­site for four ways you can share your salute.
White House pho­to by Pete Souza, April 7, 2009
Click to enlarge

After more than sev­en years, the Unit­ed States “will end its com­bat mis­sion in Iraq and take an impor­tant step for­ward in respon­si­bly end­ing the Iraq war,” he said dur­ing his week­ly radio address.

That respon­si­bil­i­ty, he stressed, includes car­ing for the men and women in uni­form who vol­un­teered to fight.

“What this new gen­er­a­tion of vet­er­ans must know is this: our nation’s com­mit­ment to all who wear its uni­form is a sacred trust that is as old as our repub­lic itself,” he said. “It is one that, as pres­i­dent, I con­sid­er a moral oblig­a­tion to uphold.”

He called upon the the nation to pay trib­ute to all who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, not­ing the two wars are America’s longest con­tin­u­ous com­bat engage­ment. “For the bet­ter part of a decade,” he said, “our troops and their fam­i­lies have served tour after tour with hon­or and hero­ism, risk­ing and often giv­ing their lives for the defense of our free­dom and secu­ri­ty.”

Some U.S. troops will remain to sup­port and train Iraqi forces, part­ner with Iraqis in coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sions, and pro­tect civil­ian and mil­i­tary efforts, he said. But he pledged all U.S. troops will be home from Iraq by the end of next year.

More than a mil­lion U.S. troops have served in Iraq and more than a mil­lion who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined the ranks of America’s vet­er­ans. Oba­ma said his admin­is­tra­tion has worked to make the nation’s vet­er­ans pol­i­cy more respon­sive.

“We’re build­ing a 21st cen­tu­ry VA, mod­ern­iz­ing and expand­ing VA hos­pi­tals and health care, and adapt­ing care to bet­ter meet the unique needs of female vet­er­ans,” he said. “We’re cre­at­ing a sin­gle elec­tron­ic health record that our troops and vet­er­ans can keep for life. We’re break­ing the claims back­log and reform­ing the process with new paper­less sys­tems.” Oba­ma added that wound­ed war­rior facil­i­ties are being built through­out the Defense Depart­ment, and more is being done to help those suf­fer­ing from Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury and Post-Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der.

“For many of our troops and their fam­i­lies, the war does­n’t end when they come home,” he said. “Too many suf­fer from Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury and Post-Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der – the sig­na­ture injuries of today’s wars – and too few receive prop­er screen­ing or care. We’re chang­ing that.

“We’re direct­ing sig­nif­i­cant resources to treat­ment, hir­ing more men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, and mak­ing major invest­ments in aware­ness, out­reach and sui­cide pre­ven­tion,” he said. “And we’re mak­ing it eas­i­er for a vet with PTSD to get the ben­e­fits he or she needs.”

First lady Michelle Oba­ma and Jill Biden, wife of Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, have forged a nation­al com­mit­ment to sup­port mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, he not­ed. This includes new sup­port for care­givers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recov­ery, and fund­ing and imple­ment­ing the Post‑9/11 GI Bill, which is already help­ing some 300,000 vet­er­ans and their fam­i­ly mem­bers pur­sue a col­lege edu­ca­tion.

New resources are also being devot­ed to job train­ing and place­ment to help vet­er­ans try­ing to find work in “a very tough econ­o­my,” the pres­i­dent said. “I’ve direct­ed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to hire more vet­er­ans, includ­ing dis­abled vet­er­ans, and I encour­age every busi­ness in Amer­i­ca to fol­low suit.

“This new gen­er­a­tion of vet­er­ans has proven itself to be a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers,” he stressed. “They have unmatched train­ing and skills; they’re ready to work; and our coun­try is stronger when we tap their extra­or­di­nary tal­ents.”

The pres­i­dend closed his address by encour­ag­ing peo­ple to vis­it whitehouse.gov to send the troops text and video mes­sages of thanks and sup­port.

“Let them know that they have the respect and sup­port of a grate­ful nation,” he said. “That when their tour ends; when they see our flag; when they touch our soil; they’ll always be home in an Amer­i­ca that is for­ev­er here for them – just as they’ve been there for us.”

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

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