ARLINGTON, VA.: President Barack Obama told America’s veterans Monday that the country is indebted to them and he pledged to support them “now, tomorrow and forever.”
Speaking at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery’s amphitheater, Obama and his secretary of veterans affairs asserted the need to continue providing for America’s veterans.
Thousands of people lined up at the cemetery on a sunny autumn morning to attend a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and speeches at the amphitheater by Obama and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.
“They put on the uniform and they put their lives on the line,” Obama said. “They do this so that the rest of us might live in a country and a world that is safer, freer and more just.”
Americans gathered to attend ceremonies across the country. Originally named Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 — because of the World War I cease-fire between the Allied nations and Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — Veterans Day is set aside to thank those who’ve put their lives on the line.
Parades took place from coast to coast, including in New York and San Diego. Colorado State University held a 5K run, and the Cal Veterans Group assembled volunteers to build a home for a veteran in California.
After a White House breakfast in honor of veterans, Obama placed the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and addressed an audience of some 4,000 about the responsibility the country has to those who sacrificed their lives for it.
The president pledged to pay attention to the debts owed to veterans. “Even as we make difficult fiscal choices as a nation,” he said, “we’re going to keep making vital investments in our veterans.”
By this winter, only 34,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan, Obama said. Next year, the transition to Afghan-led security should be complete, he added.
In his remarks, Obama honored 107-year-old veteran Richard Overton, who was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked and served in Okinawa and at Iwo Jima. An African-American, Overton returned home to a nation divided by race, the president said.
“This is how we’ll be judged,” Obama said, asking Overton to stand from his wheelchair and acknowledge the crowd’s applause. “Not just by how well we care for our troops in battle, but how we treat them when they come home.”