President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

Uploaded by whitehouse on 11.11.2011

Speaker: Please be seated.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we begin today's ceremony,
we will present a special tribute to America's veterans.
Since the 1700s, generations of our military men and women have
established a legacy of resolve and determination that exist in
our country today.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor,
America's Greatest Generation stepped forward to chisel their
place in history at Normandy, Midway, and around the world.
Peace was short lived, however, as the world was thrust into the
nuclear age and became polarized between the forces of democracy
and communism.
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In Korea, our veterans served as part of the United Nations
Fighting Force in places like Pork Chop Hill,
Pusan and Inchon.
After three years of intense combat in a harsh environment,
an armistice was signed that is still in effect today.
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In Vietnam, our next generation of veterans engaged the enemy
wherever they found them and fought with distinction and
honor in places such as the Ia Drang Valley and Dak To,
and during the Tet Offensive.
Following Vietnam, the military draft ended,
and the United States shifted to an all-volunteer force.
This force demonstrated the resolve of the United States in
Grenada and Panama, rescuing thousands.
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked our victory in
the Cold War.
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History would repeat itself.
New threats emerged in both the Middle East and Europe.
In Desert Storm, our forces moved swiftly to help liberate
Kuwait from the occupying Iraqi forces.
The United States also intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo
to protect the innocent caught in the violence.
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And following the attacks of 9/11,
America took the fight to the enemy in Southwest Asia,
where we continue to pursue and eliminate threats today.
Throughout its history, America's veterans have been and
continue to be the bedrock of our nation --
caring for family, neighbors, and the United States
of America.
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Ladies and gentlemen, please rise now as we present our
national colors and those of our host veterans' organization,
the Military Order of the World Wars.
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Speaker: Please remain standing for the prayer for all veterans,
delivered by Chaplain Keith Ethridge,
Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Chaplain Service.
Chaplain Keith Ethridge: Let us pray.
Holy God, we seek your blessing as we return to this sacred
ground to celebrate and honor American veterans.
We join with Americans all across our land in ceremonies
around the world to thank our veterans for their love of
country, their dedication to excellence and their commitment
to service.
We give thanks for families who have stood by their military men
and women while they were deployed and today stand by them
as they invest that same love of country,
dedication and service in civilian life.
We pause this morning to remember and pray for those who
continue to grieve the loss of a service member,
no matter the generation or time of service.
In this hour, we pledge to care for veterans and their families
as they adjust to living with the wounds of war.
May they know that their sacrifices were not in vain and
that a grateful nation takes time today to honor them for the
great gift of freedom.
Bless our service members who continue to serve in harm's way
in Afghanistan, Iraq and in locations around the world.
Hear our prayer for veterans.
We pray with gratitude.
All: Amen.
Speaker: Now I'd like to invite Mr. Russell Vowinkel,
Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the World
Wars, to lead us in our Pledge of Allegiance.
Captain Russell Vowinkel: Please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance.
All: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Speaker: Please be seated.
It is now my distinct privilege to introduce the leaders of the
veteran service organizations that comprise the Veterans Day
National Committee.
The committee was formed by presidential order in 1954 to
hold this annual observation for America's veterans and to
support and encourage Veterans Day observances throughout
the nation.
Please hold your applause until I've introduced all these
special guests.
If you're able, please stand when I call your name.
Russell Vowinkel, Commander-in-Chief,
Military Order of the World Wars.
Arthur Cooper, National President,
The Retired Enlisted Association.
Harold Fritz, President, Congressional Medal of
Honor Society.
Donald L. Samuels, National Commander,
Disabled American Veterans.
Bill Muehleib, National President,
Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
Norbert Ryan, Jr., National President,
Military Officers Association of America.
Therese Wrobel, National Commander,
Polish Legion of American Veterans.
William Mac Swain, National President,
Korean War Veterans Association.
Albert Gonzales, National Commander, American GI Forum.
Allen E. Falk, National Commander,
Jewish War Veterans of the USA.
Carroll Bogard, National Commander,
American Ex-Prisoners of War.
Leo F. Haley, National Commander,
Catholic War Veterans of the USA.
Frederick Elliott, Vice President,
Vietnam Veterans of America.
Richard L. DeNoyer, Commander-in-Chief,
Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States.
Gary Fry, National Commander, AMVETS.
Samuel L. Huhn, National President,
Blinded Veterans Association.
Jeffrey Gibson, National Commander,
Army and Navy Union of the USA.
H. Gene Overstreet, National Commander,
Non Commissioned Officers Association.
David Voyles, National Vice Commander, The American Legion.
Bill Hutton, National Commander, Military Order of the Purple
Heart of the USA.
James Scarborough, past National President,
Fleet Reserve Association.
James Tuohy, Senior Vice Commandant, Marine Corps League.
Edward T. Brogan, National President,
Military Chaplains Association.
Bill Lawson, National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Donald L. Marx, National Commander,
Legion of Valor of the USA.
The associate members of the committee are located in the
boxes to my left.
Please hold your applause until the end.
Norma Luther, National President,
American Gold Star Mothers.
Jeanette B. Early, National President,
Gold Star Wives of America.
Janet Broussard, President, Blue Star Mothers of America.
Peter Forbes, National Commander,
Veterans of the Vietnam War.
S. Sanford Schlitt, Chairman of the Board,
Air Force Association.
Carl Barrett, National Commander,
Navy Seabee Veterans of America.
Jeffrey Ledoux, International President,
Air Force Sergeants Association.
Mike Lynch, President and CEO, Help Hospitalized Veterans.
Gerald DeFrancisco, President of the Humanitarian Services,
American Red Cross.
David Fletcher, President, National Association of State
Directors of Veterans Affairs.
Lori S. Montgomery, President, National Association of State
Veterans Homes.
Jack W. Klimp, President, National Association of
Uniformed Services.
Gerald H. Yamada, President, Japanese American
Veterans Association.
J. David Bailey, National President,
Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.
Darlene Baker, Chair of the Board, Bowlers to Veterans Link.
Charles Abell, Member of the Board, Wounded Warrior Project.
Walker Williams, President, Reserve Officers Association.
Tim Moon, National President, Association of United
States Navy.
Vickie F. Hajduk, National President,
Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing our
veterans' national leadership with your applause.
It is now my pleasure to introduce our veterans
organization host.
Founded in 1919, the Military Order of the World Wars was
formed at the suggestion of General of the Armies,
John J. Pershing.
It is a veterans service organization,
comprised of members who were or are commissioned or warrant
officers of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force,
Coast Guard, Public Health Service,
and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Military Order of the World Wars is represented today by
their national Commander-in-Chief,
retired Navy Captain, Russell C. Vowinkel.
Captain Vowinkel served as a Naval Flight Officer in the
Republic of Vietnam.
Ladies and gentlemen, Russell C. Vowinkel.
Captain Russell Vowinkel: Mr. President, Secretary Shinseki, fellow veterans,
distinguished guests, and Americans everywhere,
on behalf of the companions of the Military Order of the World
Wars, thank you for celebrating the service of
America's veterans.
Secretary Shinseki rightfully reminds us that November 11th is
a day to celebrate the selfless service of our veterans.
It is a day to rejoice that we have Americans willing to accept
significant hardships to preserve and protect our nation.
Likewise, America is blessed to have veteran service
organizations that continue this tradition after the military --
active military service of their members ends.
The Military Order of the World Wars is just one of many veteran
service organizations contributing to America.
In the 92 years since our founding,
our order has served America by sponsoring youth leadership
conferences accredited by the National Association of
Secondary School Principals throughout the United States.
Our order also serves America's youth by sponsoring awards
programs for junior and senior ROTC programs,
the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America.
Additionally, we recognize those who excel in national security,
homeland security, and law enforcement arenas.
Finally, we serve America by sponsoring Massing of the Colors
ceremonies in conjunction with Flag Day, the Fourth of July,
Memorial Day, and Veterans Day.
We are not unique.
Veterans and the veteran service organizations to which they
belong support America every day in every way.
We're grateful for the veterans' abiding devotion to duty.
We're humbled by their eternal sacrifices.
Their selfless service underwrites the freedom of
thought, choice and action necessary we all must have to
pursue our respective dreams and aspirations.
For that and for so much more, we are in their eternal debt.
Thank you.
Speaker: Please welcome the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki,
Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Secretary Shinseki: Welcome, everyone, to this hallowed place.
Our purpose here today is to honor all of you --
the veterans of our great country.
Mr. President, First Lady Michelle Obama;
Medal of Honor recipients Harold Fritz and Brian Thacker;
distinguished members of the Congress;
Secretary of Defense Panetta, service Secretaries,
members of your Defense team; Chairman and Mrs. Marty Dempsey,
leaders of our uniformed services;
Deputy VA Secretary Scott Gould, other VA leaders;
my greetings to Russell Vowinkel again,
Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of World Wars,
our co-host today; Bill Muehleib and other Pearl Harbor
survivors, who are standing with us their last Veterans Day
formation as a service organization.
For the past 70 years, they have been stalwart reminders of the
importance of national readiness.
Thank you for your service, and Godspeed.
Other veterans service organizations; fellow veterans;
other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen --
What a beautiful day for observing this 11th hour of the
11th day of the 11th month, in the 11th year of this century.
Just think warm.
We gather as Americans to honor, thank and celebrate those who
have safeguarded this great nation both in peace and in war
and to renew our commitment as a nation to those who,
in President Abraham Lincoln's words, have "borne the battle."
In these uncertain times, the nation's veterans can take great
comfort in knowing that we have a Commander-in-Chief who is
staunchly devoted to keeping Lincoln's commitment.
President Obama's support for veterans has been strong,
consistent, unwavering.
And because of that, we have been transforming your VA to
better serve veterans throughout this 21st century.
Working with the Congress, the President provided in 2010 the
largest single-year increase to the VA budget in over 30 years.
And he has steadily -- thank you.
And he has steadily grown that budget by 27% over the past two
fiscal years.
Extraordinary support during these tough economic times,
and yet essential if we're going to increase veteran access to
our services and benefits, eliminate the backlog in
disability claims, and end veterans' homelessness in 2015.
In the last two-and-a-half years,
we've added nearly 800,000 veterans to our healthcare
rolls, built more than 50 new community-based outpatient
clinics, are building five new hospitals,
have invested heavily in both mental healthcare and the
telehealth technologies to link veterans wherever they live with
the VA services they need.
We've also improved outreach to women veterans,
adding 144 women's program coordinators at our key medical
centers and women's veterans benefits coordinators at our 56
regional offices; enrolled over 630,000 veterans and family
members in college under the new GI Bill;
and begun piloting an automated claims process that will start
eliminating the backlog next year;
helped permanently house over 32,000 homeless veterans and
assisted another 50, 000 through our homeless call center.
And then addressed longstanding, longstanding issues from past
wars: Agent Orange; Gulf War illness;
combat post-traumatic stress disorder,
making it easier for hundreds of thousands of veterans to receive
the benefits they earned.
No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has done more
for the nation's veterans who answered the call to general
quarters at Pearl Harbor, who turned the tide at Midway,
who captured Hitler's Eagle's Nest,
outflanked communist forces at Inchon,
fought and defeated the Tet '68 offensive, liberated Kuwait,
toppled Saddam Hussein, drove the Taliban into hiding and
brought Osama Bin Laden to justice.
We could not ask for a stronger advocate for veterans and for
the men and women who serve today in uniform who will be
tomorrow's veterans.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's my great personal and professional
honor to present to you our Commander-in-Chief,
the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
The President: Thank you.
Please be seated.
Thank you, Ric Shinseki, for your extraordinary service to
our country and your tireless commitment to our veterans;
to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta;
to Chairman Dempsey and Mrs. Dempsey;
to our wonderful veterans service organizations for the
extraordinary work that you do for our nation's heroes;
to all who tend to and watch over this sacred cemetery;
and above all, to every active duty member, Guardsman,
Reservist, and veteran of the United States Armed Forces.
There are many honors and responsibilities that come
with this job.
But none are more humbling than serving as your
And I'm proud to be with so many of you here today.
Here, where our heroes come to rest,
we come to show our gratitude.
A few moments ago, I laid a wreath to pay tribute to all who
have given their lives to our country.
For even though this is a day we rightly honor America's
veterans, we gather today in solemn respect --
mindful that we are guests here; mindful that we share this
hallowed space with a family's moment of quiet grief;
mindful that many veterans not far from here are tracing their
fingers over black granite for friends who never came home --
and expect us to do all we can to bring every missing American
service member home to their families.
To all our nation's veterans: Whether you fought in Salerno or
Samarra, Khe Sanh or the Korengal,
you are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have
served this country with honor and distinction.
On behalf of a proud and grateful nation, we thank you.
When I spoke here on this day two years ago,
I said there would be a day before long when this generation
of servicemen and women would begin to step out of uniform.
And I made them a promise.
I said that when your tour ends, when you see our flag,
when you touch our soil -- you will be home in an America that
is forever here for you, just as you've been there for us.
For many, that day has come.
Over the past decade, more than 5 million Americans have worn
the uniform of the United States Armed Forces.
Of these, 3 million stepped forward after the attacks of
September 11th, knowing full well that they could be sent
into harm's way.
And in that time, they have served in some of the world's
most dangerous places.
Their service has been selfless.
Their accomplishments have been extraordinary.
In Iraq, they have battled a brutal insurgency,
trained new security forces and given the Iraqi people the
opportunity to forge a better future.
In Afghanistan, they have pushed back the Taliban,
decimated al Qaeda, and delivered the ultimate justice
to Osama bin Laden.
In concert with our allies, they have helped end Qaddafi's brutal
dictatorship and returned Libya to its people.
Because of their incredible efforts,
we can stand here today and say with confidence --
the tide of war is receding.
In just a few weeks, the long war in Iraq will finally come
to an end.
Our transition in Afghanistan is moving forward.
My fellow Americans, our troops are coming home.
For many military families, this holiday season will be a season
of homecomings.
And over the next five years, more than 1 million Americans in
uniform will transition back to civilian life,
joining the nearly 3 million who have done so over the past
decade and embraced a proud new role, the role of veteran.
This generation of service members --
this 9/11 Generation -- has borne the burden of our security
during a hard decade of sacrifice.
Our servicemen and women make up less than 1% of Americans,
but also more than 1 million military spouses and 2 million
children and millions more parents and relatives --
all of whom have shared the strains of deployment and
sacrificed on behalf of the country that we love.
Only 27 years old on average, these young men and women have
shattered the false myth of their generation's apathy,
for they came of age in an era when so many institutions failed
to live up to their responsibilities.
But they chose to serve a cause greater than their selves.
They saw their country threatened.
But they signed up to confront that threat.
They felt some tug, they answered some call,
and they said, Let's go.
And they've earned their place among the greatest
of generations.
That is something for America to be proud of.
That is the spirit America needs now --
a stronger, newer spirit of service and of sacrifice.
That spirit that says, What can I do to help?
What can I do to serve?
That spirit that says, When my country is challenged,
I will do my part to meet that challenge.
So on this Veterans Day, let us commit ourselves to keep making
sure that our veterans receive the care and benefits that they
have earned; the opportunity they defend and deserve;
and above all, let us welcome them home as what they are --
an integral, essential part of our American family.
See, when our men and women sign up to become a soldier or a
sailor, an airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman,
they don't stop being a citizen.
When they take off that uniform, their service to this nation
doesn't stop, either.
Like so many of their predecessors,
today's veterans come home looking to continue serving
America however they can.
At a time when America needs all hands on deck,
they have the skills and the strength to help lead the way.
Our government needs their patriotism and sense of duty.
And that's why I've ordered the hiring of more veterans by the
federal government.
Our economy needs their tremendous talents and
specialized skills.
So I challenged our business leaders to hire 100,000
post-9/11 veterans and their spouses over the next few years
and yesterday, many of these leaders joined Michelle to
announce that they will meet that challenge.
Our communities have always drawn strength from our
veterans' leadership.
Think of all who have come home and settled on in a quiet life
of service -- as a doctor or a police officer,
an engineer or an entrepreneur, as a mom or a dad --
and in the process, changed countless lives.
Other veterans seek new adventures from taking on a new
business to building a team of globetrotting veterans who use
skills learned in combat to help after a natural disaster.
There are also so many in this young generation who still feel
that tug to serve, but just don't quite know where to turn.
So on this Veterans Day, I ask every American,
recruit our veterans.
If you're a business owner, hire them.
If you're a community leader -- a mayor,
a pastor or a preacher -- call on them to join your efforts.
Organize your community to make a sustained difference in the
life of a veteran because that veteran can make an incredible
difference in the life of your community.
If you're a veteran looking for new ways to serve,
check out
If you're a civilian looking for new ways to support our veterans
and our troops, join Michelle and Jill Biden at
Find out what you can do.
There is no such thing as too small a difference.
That effort you make may have the biggest impact.
I say this because recently, I received a letter from a
Vietnam veteran.
She wasn't writing to tell me about her own experience.
She just wanted to tell me about her son, Jeremy.
Now, Jeremy isn't deployed, Jeremy's not a veteran,
or even in the military at all, as badly as he wants to follow
in the footsteps of his family and enlist.
You see, Jeremy has Down Syndrome.
So Jeremy chooses to serve where he can best --
with his local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in
Beaver, Pennsylvania.
He calls them "the soldiers".
And one day last spring, Jeremy spent the day with several of
these veterans cleaning up a local highway.
"He worked tirelessly," wrote his mother.
"He never asked to take a break.
He didn't stop to talk about his beloved Steelers.
He didn't even ask for anything to eat or drink.
He only asked for one thing, several times --
'Mom, will President Obama be proud of me for helping
the soldiers?'"
Well, Jeremy, I want you to know, yes, I am proud of you.
I could not be prouder of you, and your country is
proud of you.
Thank you for serving our veterans by helping them to
continue their service to America.
And Jeremy's example -- one young man's example --
is one that we must all now follow.
Because after a decade of war, the nation we now need to build
is our own.
And just as our Greatest Generation left a country
recovering from Depression and returned home to build the
largest middle class in history, so now will the 9/11 Generation
play a pivotal role in rebuilding America's opportunity
and prosperity in the 21st century.
We know it will be hard.
We have to overcome new threats to our security and prosperity,
and we've got to overcome the cynical voices warning that
America's best days are behind us.
But if there is anything our veterans teach us,
it's that there is no threat we cannot meet;
there is no challenge we cannot overcome.
America's best days are still ahead.
And the reason for that is because we are a people who defy
those voices that insist otherwise.
We are a country that does what is necessary for future
generations to succeed.
You, our veterans, fight so our children won't have to.
We build and we invent and we learn so that we will know
greater opportunity.
America leads so that the next generation,
here and around the world, will know a more hopeful life
on this Earth.
So today, I thank you all for making that possible.
God bless you.
God bless our veterans and our troops,
and God bless the United States of America.
Speaker: Please rise and join the United States Army Band in singing,
"God Bless America."
♪♪(music playing)♪♪
Singer: ♪ God bless America ♪
♪ Land that I love ♪
♪ Stand beside her ♪
♪ And guide her ♪
♪ Thru the night ♪
♪ With a light from above ♪
♪ From the mountains ♪
♪ To the prairies ♪
♪ To the oceans ♪
♪ White with foam ♪
♪ God bless America ♪
♪ My home sweet home ♪
♪ God bless America ♪
♪ My home sweet home ♪
Speaker: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing as we retire
the colors.
Retire the Colors.
♪♪(music playing)♪♪
Speaker: This concludes the 2011 National Veterans Day Observance.
Please be seated for the departure of the President of
the United States, and thank you for joining us to honor
all who served.