President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Ceremony Monday, calling Americans on Veterans Day to “honor a debt we can never fully repay.”
Obama evoked memories of troops at Lexington, Gettysburg, the beaches of Europe, across the Pacific Islands, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and the post-Sept. 11 war in Afghanistan, saying America must remember its commitments to military members both on the battlefield and upon returning home.
“Part of the reason that we’re here today is to pledge we will never forget the profound sacrifices that are made in our name,” he said. “Today reminds us of our sacred obligations.”
Calling the core of al Qaeda "on the path to defeat," Obama said that the winding-down war in Afghanistan provides Americans with another test: making sure veterans have access to good jobs and wages.
“This is how we’ll be judged, not just by how we treat troops in battle but how we treat them when they come home,” he added.
Obama was joined at Arlington National Ceremony by Vice President Biden, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.
Earlier Monday, Obama held a private breakfast at the White House with veterans and their families.
The White House is making a concerted effort to entice employers to hire more veterans, pointing out high unemployment among members of the armed forces, growing suicide rates and widespread cases of depression.
“We heard from so many veterans who had learned highly technical, specialized skills during their time in the military, but when they returned home, employers had trouble understanding how those military credentials translated into civilian qualifications,” Michelle Obama and Jill Biden wrote in an op-ed Monday. “Military spouses were also having difficulty building their careers because almost every time they moved, their teaching or nursing or other professional credentials weren’t recognized by their new state, even if they’d been practicing for years.”
At one point, the president led a standing ovation for 107-year-old, World War II veteran Richard Overton, who fought at Pearl Harbor.
Of Overton and other veterans, Obama said simply: “They have answered America’s call.”