November 11th, 2012
01:52 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama honors veterans, says more should be done to help them

(CNN) – President Barack Obama says Americans who served abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan should always be able to rely on a robust system of support from the government.

In his speech Sunday at a solemn ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Obama noted it was the first Veterans Day in 10 years that no Americans were serving in Iraq, and pointed to the diminishing U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

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"After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home," Obama said to applause at the Memorial Amphitheater.

Those heroes deserve efficient care for the physical and psychological scars inflicted by war, the president said, adding that the current backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs was being addressed by members of his administration.

"If you find yourself struggling with the wounds of war - such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries - we'll be there… with the care and treatment you need. 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. We won't let up. We will not let up," Obama vowed.

In 2012, the VA says it will process 1 million disability claims, though it's currently sorting through a backlog of 860,000 claims from American veterans. More than a quarter of those vets - 228,000 - have been waiting for a year or more.

Before he spoke, Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. After his remarks at the Memorial Ampitheater, he met with military families in Section 60 of the cemetery, where veterans of the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill joined Obama and the first lady.

The president acknowledged in his speech that such expressions of gratitude alone weren't adequate for veterans and their families.

"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, saying that helping military members transition back to civilian life was a priority for him and his team.

"Over the next few years, more than a million service members will transition back to civilian life," Obama 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 - not just now but always; not just for the first few years, but for as long as they walk this earth."


Filed under: President Obama • Veterans
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. James

    so where are all these pople going to find jobs after he slashes the military?

    November 11, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    As the Guards stood watch over the Tomb of the Unknowns during Hurricane Sandy, my Grandson asked me "what is the Tomb of the Unknowns" I was honored that he asked me and I was happy to know the answer. I love and honor all of our military men and women, they will always have a special place in my heart.

    November 11, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Woman In California

    I am so proud of this country and today, is a day I salute and give my greatest respect to all those who have served our country.

    Mr. President the country made the right choice AGAIN, and I know you will continue to make us proud in the years to come.

    This is not the time but somehow, I just can't picture a creep who ran off to France and left his fellow brethen to die, laying a wreath on Veterans Day. God Bless America for sending this low-life back to wherever he calls home and giving him years to repent for the lives he destroyed.

    November 11, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Greg

    Sure... watch what he does and not what he says. He is slashing veterans (retired military) benefits and increasing copays.

    November 11, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. 82ndairborne1968

    For those of us who served – and never heard a shot fired in anger – there is already plenty of help, and we do appreciate your thanks. The ones who need more help are those who are actual COMBAT veterans.

    November 11, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. sharonw.

    If so many people are unemployed, we should give them some incentive to join the military. Both my parents were vets, Either that or President Obama should start something like the WPA and other programs to put people to work like President Roosevelt did...rather than letting them continually collect unemployment or go on welfare. There are plenty of projects to be done around the U.S. Our President is really missing the boat on these issues, and I really like President Obama. Come on, President Obama...get the U.S. moving again. Michelle will agree. Then there will not be so many obese and diabetic people.

    November 11, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. petemg

    How can he say he supports veterans when somebody had to remind him to salute the military as their commander and chief. If the government truly supported the military when they went to war they would have had better equipment to protect them. I do not believe this from Obama.

    November 11, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  8. Scott Brown

    Brilliant stuff!

    November 11, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Charlie

    The hand is quicker than the eye.

    President Obama's words ring hollow when it comes to Veteran's Affairs. Isn't it odd that this show of support for Vets comes the day after it was announced that many Military Retirees will be losing Tricare Prime–their current medical insurance. This is Washington's way of saying thank you to those who have served their country for at least twenty years.

    Actions are louder than words. Showing up, making a speech, having a photo-op, then leaving does not qualify. That's what happened a couple of weeks ago with hurricane Sandy.

    Advice: don't believe anything your hear and only half of what you see.

    November 11, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. David

    I often hear President Obama say that he will help veterans, but I have never seen him actually take any real substantial action. It is all just lip service. Supporting the troops is the PC thing to do, so he says that he does. But he doesn't.
    I will give him this though: his statement about "helping military members transition back to civilian life" being a priority for him has some truth to it. He is forcing military members out of the service against their will in order to save money. Forcing the people who risked their lives in military service into unemployment during the worst recession in recent history is not a good way to show support for them.

    November 11, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  11. Pete

    Why doesn't Pres.Obama put pressure publicly on McCain and his follow republicans about turning down vets jobs bills and extending healthcare for vets .McCain led the charge both times and his collegues in Issa and others cut the defense budget that cut back security for foriegn embassies ,can you day ignorent as well as double standards because they are both...Issa creating political witch hunts when it was they who started the messes.It's like republicans digging a hole and fall in it themselves,that stupid!!Wake up republicans because if you don't create jobs or help fix the economy by 2014 your butts are gone,you know you're going down so quit cryin and do something for the money we pay yah!!

    November 11, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  12. ted

    The red tape at the VA needs to be found and removed. The incompetent managers and clerks need to be removed or retrained. It is horrible that veterans have to wait so long for help. There are a lot of homeless and unemployed veterans. The least we can do for these people is to treat them right when they return to civilian life.

    November 11, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Thank you, Mr. President, for putting actions with your words. Everyone should join in supporting the President and his commitment to take care of our own.

    November 11, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |