President Obama and Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander of the U.S.… (Michael Reynolds / Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- “After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home,” President Obama declared Sunday, marking Veterans Day by highlighting the first such day in 10 years without American troops serving in Iraq.
Delivering a speech during a ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery, Obama applauded the efforts of service members and celebrated the diminished number of U.S. military involvements.
“This is the first Veterans Day in a decade in which there are no American troops fighting and dying in Iraq. Thirty-three thousand of our troops have now returned from Afghanistan, and the transition there is underway,” he said.
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“When I spoke here three years ago, I spoke about today’s generation of service members. This 9/11 generation who stepped forward after the towers fell, and in the years since, have stepped into history, writing one of the greatest chapters of military service our country has ever known,” Obama said.
“You toppled a dictator and battled an insurgency in Iraq. You pushed back the Taliban and decimated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. You delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. Tour after tour, year after year, you and your families have done all that this country has asked – you’ve done that and more.”
“Today, a proud nation expresses our gratitude. But we do so mindful that no ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service. For that, we must do more. For that, we must commit – this day and every day – to serving you as well as you’ve served us,” Obama said, speaking to the commitments Americans, and their government, have to veterans.
He highlighted the needs of veterans returning home, which has been a focus for First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill. Obama stressed the importance of efforts to rehire and retrain veterans, maintaining the post-Sept. 11 GI Bill and addressing mounting medical issues.
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“If you find yourself struggling with the wounds of war – such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries – we’ll be there as well, with the care and treatment you need,” he said. “No veteran should have to wait months or years for the benefits that you’ve earned, so we will continue to attack the claims backlog.”
In addition to his remarks, Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and followed his speech by meeting with military families in Section 60, where those killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
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