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.”
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 about 34,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan, Obama said. Next year, the transition to Afghan-led security should be complete, he added.
Shinseki noted that the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased by more than 50 percent, 2 million veterans have been added to the VA’s health care system, and there have been reductions in veteran homelessness.
The president said he’d work to improve health care and to provide afford-able care for those not covered by the VA; he also pledged to reduce the backlog in disability claims.
He singled out Richard Overton, a 107-year-old native of Austin, Texas, who fought in the Army during World War II.
Overton was at Pearl Harbor, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, Obama said. When he returned to Texas, he built a home, where he still resides.
He worked in the furniture business and went on to serve as a courier in the state capitol.
“This is the life of one American veteran, living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free,” the president said.