Barack Obama Forty-Fourth President
(2009 to 2017)
Remarks On Veterans Day 2012
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia November 11, 2012
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Please, everybody, be seated. Good
Thank you, Secretary Shinseki, for a
lifetime of service to our nation, and for being such a tireless
advocate on behalf of America's veterans, including your fellow
To Rick Delaney; to Vice President Biden;
to Admiral Winnefeld; Major General Linnington; our outstanding
veteran service organizations; our men and women in uniform –-
Active, Guard and Reserve -- and most of all, to the proud veterans
and family members joining us in this sacred place, it is truly a
privilege and an honor to be with all of you here today.
Each year, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we pause –- as
a nation, and as a people –- to pay tribute to you. To thank you. To
honor you, the heroes, over the generations, who have served this
country of ours with distinction.
And moments ago, I laid a
wreath to remember every service member who has ever worn our
nation's uniform. And this day, first and foremost, belongs to them
and their loved ones: to the father and mother, the husband and
wife, the brother and sister, the comrade and the friend who, when
we leave here today, will continue to walk these quiet hills and
kneel before the final resting place of those they cherished most.
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.
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.
Whenever America has come under attack, you've risen to her defense.
Whenever our freedoms have come under assault, you've responded with
resolve. Time and again, at home and abroad, you and your families
have sacrificed to protect that powerful promise that all of us hold
so dear –- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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
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.
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.
Three years ago, I promised your generation
that when your tour comes to an end, when you see our flag, when you
touch our soil, you'll be welcomed home to an America that will
forever fight for you, just as hard as you've fought for us. And so
long as I have the honor of serving as your Commander-in-Chief, that
is the promise that we will never stop working to keep.
is the first Veterans Day in a decade in which there are no American
troops fighting and dying in Iraq. (Applause.) Thirty-three thousand
of our troops have now returned from Afghanistan, and the transition
there is underway. After a decade of war, our heroes are coming
home. And over the next few years, more than a million service
members will transition back to civilian life. They'll take off
their uniforms and take on a new and lasting role. They will be
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.
To this day, we still care for a child
of a Civil War veteran. To this day, we still care for over a
hundred spouses and children of the men who fought in the
Spanish-American War. Just last year, I came here to pay tribute as
Frank Buckles, the last remaining American veteran of World War I,
was laid to rest. Frank stepped up and served in World War I for two
years. But the United States of America kept its commitment to serve
him for many decades that followed.
So long after the battles
end, long after our heroes come home, we stay by their side. That's
who we are. And that's who we'll be for today's returning service
members and their families. Because no one who fights for this
country overseas should ever have to fight for a job, or a roof over
their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home.
We know the most urgent task many of you face is
finding a new way to serve. That's why we've made it a priority to
help you find jobs worthy of your incredible skills and talents.
That's why, thanks to the hard work of Michelle and Jill Biden, some
of our most patriotic businesses have hired or trained 125,000
veterans and military spouses. It's why we're transforming, for the
first time in decades, how the military transitions service members
from the battlefield to the workplace. And because you deserve to
share in the opportunities you defend, we are making sure that the
Post-9/11 GI Bill stays strong so you can earn a college education
and pursue your dreams. (Applause.)
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. 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. (Applause.) And as we mark the 50th anniversary of the
Vietnam War, we have secured new disability benefits for Vietnam-era
veterans exposed to Agent Orange. You needed it, you fought for it,
and we got it done. (Applause.)
That's what we do in America.
We take care of our own. 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.
That's our obligation –- a sacred obligation –- to all of you.
And it's an obligation that we gladly accept for Americans like
Petty Officer Taylor Morris. Six months ago, Taylor was serving our
nation in Afghanistan. And as a member of an Explosive Ordnance
Disposal Team, his job was one of the most dangerous there is: to
lead the way through territory littered with hidden explosives; to
clear the way for his brothers-in-arms.
On May 3rd, while out
on patrol, Taylor stepped on an IED. The blast threw him into the
air. And when he hit the ground, Taylor realized that both his legs
were gone. And his left arm. And his right hand.
Taylor lay there, fully conscious, bleeding to death, he cautioned
the medics to wait before rushing his way. He feared another IED was
nearby. Taylor's concern wasn't for his own life; it was for theirs.
Eventually, they cleared the area. They tended to Taylor's
wounds. They carried him off the battlefield. And days later, Taylor
was carried into Walter Reed, where he became only the fifth
American treated there to survive the amputation of all four limbs.
Now, Taylor's recovery has been long. And it has been arduous.
And it's captivated the nation. A few months after the attack, with
the help of prosthetics, the love and support of his family, and
above all his girlfriend Danielle, who never left his side, Taylor
wasn't just walking again. In a video that went viral, the world
watched he and Danielle dance again.
I've often said the most
humbling part of my job is serving as Commander-in-Chief. And one of
the reasons is that, every day, I get to meet heroes. I met Taylor
at Walter Reed. And then in July, at the White House, I presented
him with the Purple Heart. And right now, hanging on a wall in the
West Wing is a photo of that day, a photo of Taylor Morris smiling
wide and standing tall.
I should point out that Taylor
couldn't make it here today because he and Danielle are out
kayaking. (Laughter and applause.) In Taylor we see the best of
America -- a spirit that says, when we get knocked down, we rise
again. When times are tough, we come together. When one of us
falters, we lift them up. In this country we take care of our own –-
especially our veterans who have served so bravely and sacrificed so
selflessly in our name. And we carry on, knowing that our best days
always lie ahead.
On this day, we thank all of our veterans
from all of our wars – not just for your service to this country,
but for reminding us why America is and always will be the greatest
nation on Earth.
God bless you. God bless our veterans. God
bless our men and women in uniform. And God bless these United
States of America. Thank you very much.