(ARLINGTON, Va.) — Honoring the nation’s military “heroes over the generations, who have served this country of ours with distinction,” President Barack Obama today participated in Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
After laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the president spoke on the grounds’ memorial amphitheater to tell assembled military and their families that Nov. 11 would forever belong to them and, “every service member who has ever worn our nation’s uniform.”
“On behalf of the American people, I say to you that the memory of your loved one carries on not just in your hearts, but in ours as well. And I assure you that their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he said. “For it is in that sacrifice that we see the enduring spirit of America. Since even before our founding, we have been blessed with an unbroken chain of patriots who have always come forward to serve.”
The president recounted remarks he made to commemorate the holiday three years ago, when he spoke of the 9-11 generation of service members. These troops, who had come up in the shadow of the War on Terror, had “toppled a dictator and battled an insurgency in Iraq,” he said.
“You pushed back the Taliban and decimated al Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
Obama was met with applause when he noted this was the first Veterans Day without an Iraq War.
“Over the next few years, more than a million service members will transition back to civilian life,” he said. “They’ll take off their uniforms and take on a new and lasting role. They will be veterans. As they come home, it falls to us, their fellow citizens, to be there for them and their families.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki – himself a Vietnam vet — introduced the president at the ceremony. Obama praised his department for continuing care for veterans and their families long after wars were over, noting that the US still cares for the child of a Civil War veteran even today, as well as over a hundred spouses and children of men who served in the Spanish-American War.
The president also highlighted the work of first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, who have focused programs on military families during their stay in the White House. The women and Vice President Joe Biden were in attendance.
“That’s what we do in America. We take care of our own,” he said. ”We take care of our veterans. We take care of your families. Not just by saluting you on one day, once a year, but by fighting for you and your families every day of every year.”
It was an obligation gladly accepted for veterans like Petty Officer Taylor Morris, who lost all four limbs in Afghanistan to an IED while serving as an explosive ordinance disposal technician. In his closing remarks, Obama recounted a viral video of Morris once again dancing with his girlfriend after recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and later awarding him a Purple Heart as he stood in the White House.
After his remarks, the president and his wife were joined by the vice president and Dr. Biden as they stopped at the cemetery’s “Section 60,” an area dedicated to service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Walking among the tombstones, they were quietly greeted by dozens of families that had gathered in the vicinity to reflect and give respects to loved ones.
The Obama administration has reported progress in reforming problems plaguing American service members, including unemployment and homelessness. But the slow-trudging success has at times become a double edged sword.
For example, as reported by the Washington Post, the administration has made it easier for veterans to file claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the backlog of pending disability claims has more than doubled since Obama took office in 2009.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio