Full Text Political Transcripts May 29, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Memorial Day Speech at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at Arlington National Cemetery

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Source: WH, 5-29-17

Arlington, Virginia

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  And thank you, General Dunford and Secretary Mattis, for your moving words and for your service to our great nation.  Vice President Pence, Cabinet Secretaries, members of Congress, members of the Armed Forces and veterans — thank you for joining us as we honor the brave warriors who gave their lives for ours, spending their last moments on this Earth in defense of this country and of its people.

Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love, or the totality of their courage.  We only hope that every day we can prove worthy not only of their sacrifice and service but of the sacrifice made by the families and loved ones they left behind.  Special, special people.

I especially want to extend our gratitude to Secretary John Kelly for joining us today.  Incredible man.  (Applause.)  I always like to call him General.  He understands more than most ever could or ever will the wounds and burdens of war.  Not only did Secretary proudly serve in the military for more than 40 years, enduring many hardships, but he and his incredible wife Karen have borne the single most difficult hardship of them all
— the loss of their son, Robert, in service to our country.  Robert died fighting the enemies of all civilizations in Afghanistan.

To John, Karen, Heather, Kate, Andrea and the entire Kelly family, today 300 million American hearts are joined together with yours.  We grieve with you.  We honor you.  And we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert and what he did for all of us.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)

The Kelly family represents military families across the country who carry the burden of freedom on their shoulders. Secretary Kelly is joined today by his son-in-law, Jake, a Wounded Warrior.  And the Secretary’s son, Johnnie, will soon leave on his fifth deployment.  It is because of families like yours that all of our families can live in safety and live in peace.

To every Gold Star family who honors us with your presence, you lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.  They each had their own names, their own stories, their own beautiful dreams.  But they were all angels sent to us by God, and they all share one title in common — and that is the title of hero.  (Applause.)  Real heroes.  Though they were here only a brief time before God called them home, their legacy will endure forever.

General Douglas MacArthur once said that “the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.”  Here at this hallowed shrine, we honor the noblest among us — the men and women who paid the ultimate price for victory and for freedom.  We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced into gunfire, roared into battle, and ran into hell to face down evil.  They made their sacrifice not for fame, or for money, or even for glory — but for country.

We are privileged to be joined today by a man whose life demonstrates the values of service and sacrifice:  Senator Bob Dole, here with his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole.  (Applause.)   Senator Dole fought bravely in World War II, and was severely wounded by German fire.  In just a few weeks, Bob will be celebrating his 94th birthday.  (Applause.)

And, Bob, I know I speak for millions of grateful Americans when I say thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Bob.  We thank you not only for your service, but for helping us to remember your fallen comrades and the countless American patriots who gave their lives in the Second World War.

Since the first volley of gunfire in the Revolution, brave Americans in every generation have answered the call of duty and won victory for freedom in its hour of need.  Today, a new generation of American patriots are fighting to win the battle against terrorism — risking their lives to protect our citizens from an enemy that uses the murder of innocents to wage war on humanity itself.

We are joined today by the wife of Specialist Christopher Horton, who rests on these so beautiful grounds.  As Jane tells us, Chris “was a man who loved his country with every part of his being.”
In 2008, Chris enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.  He trained as a sniper, becoming known as one of the best shots anywhere at any time.  He was a talented, tough guy.  While Chris was in the National Guard, he was also a volunteer police officer.  In everything he did, he was thinking about how he could serve God, serve his family and serve his country.

In 2011, he deployed for the first time to Afghanistan. Chris knew his job was one of the most dangerous there was, but he was determined to go after the enemy at any cost to himself.  His missions helped target and kill terrorists who sought to destroy innocent people.  Just three months into his first deployment, Chris was near the Pakistan border, trying to eliminate an enemy cell that was doing so much damage and that was planting deadly roadside bombs against his unit and the units of many others.  Standing watch with his comrades, he died in the ensuing gun battle with enemy forces.  Chris sacrificed his life to protect his fellow soldiers — and to protect all Americans.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his courage. At only 26 years old, Chris secured his place in our hearts for eternity.

Jane, America, grieves with you.  Our whole entire nation sends you our support, our strength, and our deep, deep love.  You lost your husband, and America lost a hero.  And together, we will preserve his memory — today, tomorrow, and always.  Thank you, Jane.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Jane.  Thank you, Jane.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Jane.

We are also joined today by David and Rose Byers, the parents of Major Andrew Byers.  As a boy, Andrew dreamed of the chance to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He worked hard, he earned that chance, and he graduated at the top of his class.  He became the commander of a Special HALO team, leading his fellow soldiers out of aircraft, hurtling into dangerous and unknown territory.

About this time last year, Andrew was sent on his third combat deployment.  This time he went to Afghanistan.  On November 3rd, he was one of 10 Special Forces operators to land by helicopter near a Taliban safe haven in northern Afghanistan. They trekked through a mile of waist-deep mud and climbed a steep cliff before finally reaching the village that they wanted to reach.  There, a night-long battle ensued.  Andrew and his team fought off wave after wave after wave of enemy fighters.  A grenade detonated, and as the Taliban began to surround the American and Afghan forces, Andrew ran through the smoke and through the hail of bullets to rescue an Afghan soldier.  In the midst of this torrent of gunfire and danger, Andrew worked heroically to open a gateway and get his men to safety — risking his life to save theirs.  And he did it.  Unbelievably, he did.  But in saving those lives, Andrew was killed right then and there by enemy fire.  Andrew has since been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle.

To his parents, David and Rose, we stand in awe of your son and his courageous sacrifice.  On behalf of the American people, I express to you our everlasting gratitude for what your son did for his country, for his comrades, and for all of us.

Andrew’s father has said that he holds on to the promise of Joshua Chapter 1, Verse 9:  “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  What a man he was.

To every Gold Star family, God is with you, and your loved ones are with Him.  They died in wars so that we could live in peace.  I believe that God has a special place in heaven for those who laid down their lives so that others may live free from fear and this horrible oppression.

Now let us pledge to make the most of that freedom that they so gallantly and brilliantly fought for and they died to protect. Let us also pledge to tell the stories of Robert, Chris, Andrew, and all of America’s fallen warriors today and for the next 1,000 years.  (Applause.)

And while we cannot know the extent of your pain, what we do know is that our gratitude to them and to you is boundless and undying.  Boundless and undying.  We’ll always be there.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Their stories are now woven into the soul of our nation, into the Stars and Stripes on our flag, and into the beating hearts of our great, great people.

Today we also hold a special vigil for heroes whose story we cannot tell because their names are known to God alone — the unknown soldiers.  We do not know where they came from, who they left behind, or what they hoped to be.  But we do know what they did.  They fought and they died in a great and noble act of loyalty and love to their families and to our country.

The letter written that is now famous — one Civil War soldier captured it all and for all time.  He wrote to his wife, “If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.”  That is the love we hear whispering throughout this sacred place and from every tombstone on these hallowed grounds.  It is the love that binds this earth beneath us and it bleeds from the hearts of all of those who died so that we might live free.

We can never replace them.  We can never repay them.  But we can always remember.  And today, that is what we are doing — we remember.  Words cannot wipe away the tears or bring back those smiling faces.  But if Americans just take the time to look into your eyes and tell you how much we thank you and how dearly we pray for you and how truly we love you, then hopefully you can find solace through your pain.  And every time you see the sun rise over this blessed land please know your brave sons and daughters pushed away the night and delivered for us all that great and glorious dawn.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless our fallen heroes.  God bless their families.  God bless our military.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:50 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day Ceremony Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-25-15 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Carter, for your leadership of our men and women in uniform.  General Dempsey; Major General Buchanan; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries; Chaplain Studniewski; members of our armed services, veterans, and, most of all, families and friends of our fallen — it is my deep honor to share this day with you again.

For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love.  And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant:  Honor, courage, selflessness.  Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war — men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land.

They lived in the patriots who sparked a revolution, and who saved our union.  They lived in the young GIs who defeated tyranny in Europe and the Pacific.  And this year, we mark a historic anniversary — 70 years since our victory in World War II.   More than 16 million Americans left everything they knew to fight for our freedom.  More than 400,000 gave their lives.  And today I ask all the family and friends of our fallen World War II heroes — spouses, children, brothers and sisters, and fellow veterans of World War II — to please stand if you can, or raise your hand, so that our country can thank you once more.  (Applause.)

These same values lived in those who braved the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East.  And in the past decade, we’ve seen these values on display again in the men and women of our 9/11 Generation.

For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end.  Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.  So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers — men and women — who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

As an Arizona kid, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors.  He started fishing when he was two years old.  His dad says he was pretty good for a toddler.  Wyatt grew to 6-foot-4, became a hunter and wore flannel shirts every day — so his friends nicknamed him Paul Bunyan.  He planned to go to college and work in the Arizona Game and Fish Department so that he could protect the land and waters he loved so much.

Wyatt’s life was animated by the belief that the blessings that he and his family enjoyed as Americans came with an obligation to give back, an obligation to serve.  So before he pursued his dream of being a good steward of the great outdoors, he enlisted in the Army.  And when he deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing.  Last summer, Wyatt told his sister, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”

Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica.  He moved to Queens as a teenager.  Like so many proud immigrants, he was called –compelled — to serve his new country.  He, too, enlisted in the Army, and he even recruited his older brother Marlon to join, as well.  He served five tours, including several in Iraq.  Along the way, he fell in love with an Army Reservist named Christina.  And they had a little girl, and named her Ariana.  Ramon was the kind of leader who would do anything for his men, on and off the battlefield.  But nothing was more important to him than being a great father to his little girl.

Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris were 15 years apart in age.  They traveled greatly different paths in life.  But those paths took them to the same unit.  Those paths made them brothers-in-arms, serving together in Afghanistan.  In December, an IED struck their vehicle.  They were the last two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan.  Today, here in Arlington, in Section 60, Ramon lies in eternal rest.  And we are honored to be joined by his brother, Sergeant First Class Marlon Laidley, who is deploying for Germany tonight.  Thank you, Marlon.  Thank you to your family.  (Applause.)

These two men, these two heroes, if you saw them passing on the street, you wouldn’t have known they were brothers.  But under this flag, in common cause, they were bonded together to secure our liberty, to keep us safe.

My fellow Americans, this hallowed ground is more than the final resting place of heroes; it is a reflection of America itself.  It’s a reflection of our history — the wars we’ve waged for democracy, the peace we’ve laid to preserve it.  It’s a reflection of our diversity — men and women of all backgrounds, all races and creeds and circumstances and faiths, willing to defend and die for the ideals that bind us as one nation.  It’s a reflection of our character, seen not only in those who are buried here, but also in the caretakers who watch over them and preserve this sacred place; and in the Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who dutifully, unfailingly watch over those patriots known only to God, but never forgotten.  Today, a grateful nation thanks them as well.

Most Americans don’t fully see, don’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the one percent who serve in this all-volunteer armed forces -– a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted.  Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy, or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you.  But our Gold Star families, our military families, our veterans — they know this, intimately.

Whenever I meet with our Gold Star families, like I did this morning, I hear their pride through their tears, as they flip through old photos and run their fingers over shiny medals.  I see that their hearts are still broken, and yet still full of love.  They do not ask for awards or honors.  They do not ask for special treatment.  They are unfailingly humble.  In the face of unspeakable loss, they represent the best of who we are.

They’re people like Ramon’s mother, who could carry hate for the people who killed her son — but she says, “I have no anger, no bitterness, even for the person who did this.  I feel sorry for them, and I ask God to change their hearts.”  That’s one Gold Star mother’s amazing grace.

Folks like Wyatt’s parents, Brian and Julie Martin, who said of their son, “He’s not just our kid, he’s everybody’s.  He’s an American soldier.  And as an American soldier, he belongs to everybody.”

They are siblings, like the Gold Star sister who wrote to me of her brother, Private First Class Stephen Benish, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004:  She said, “Remember him not as the 1,253rd war casualty, but the 6-foot-7 burst of light and positive influence he was on the world.”

These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us — they belong to us all.  They’re our children, too.  We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world.  And it’s our duty, our eternal obligation, to be there for them, too; to make sure our troops always have what they need to carry out the mission; to make sure we care for all those who have served; to make sure we honor all those whom we’ve lost; to make sure we keep faith with our military families; to make sure we never stop searching for those who are missing, or trying to bring home our prisoners of war.  And we are grateful for the families of our POW/MIAs.

This may be the first Memorial Day since the end of our war in Afghanistan.  But we are acutely aware, as we speak, our men and women in uniform still stand watch and still serve, and still sacrifice around the world.

Several years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces.  We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year.  But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place.  And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.

Growing up in Massachusetts, John Dawson was an honor student who played varsity soccer.  He loved the Bruins, loved the Pats, and was always up for fun — running into a room while spraying silly string, or photobombing long before it was in style.

And John was passionate about service.  He shared the same convictions of so many we honor today, who wanted nothing more than to join a common cause and be part of something bigger than himself.  He channeled his love of cycling into charity bike rides with his church.  He joined the Army.  And as a combat medic, he fulfilled his dream of helping people.  He loved his job.

In April, an attacker wearing an Afghan uniform fired at a group of American soldiers.  And Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American servicemember to give his life to this new mission to train Afghan forces.  The words on John’s dog tag were those of Scripture:  “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures.  Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings.  It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay.  By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice.  By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs — a testament that “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

We are so grateful for them.  We are so grateful for the families of our fallen.  May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve.  And may He continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Political Musings May 27, 2014: Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Political Musings November 12, 2013: Obama honors America’s veterans at national Veterans Day ceremony

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama honors America’s veterans at national Veterans Day ceremony

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama guaranteed to “never forget” America’s veterans in his Veterans Day address delivered on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 in a ceremony marking the day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The ceremony was also…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 7, 2013: Frank Lautenberg and Senate Link to WWII Laid to Rest

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Frank Lautenberg and Senate Link to WWII Laid to Rest

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-7-13

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, has been laid to rest.

Lautenberg was buried Friday morning at Arlington National Cemetery, as rain fell on umbrella-covered mourners who said goodbye not only to the late New Jersey Democrat, but to an era that has passed along with him….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama Honors Fallen Troops at Arlington National Cemetary — Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-27-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.

“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Commemorating Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Delivers Memorial Day Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Today President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate Memorial Day, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivering remarks.

The President thanked members of the armed forces and veterans for their service to the United States, and paid tribute to our fallen heroes laid to rest at Arlington

President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying (5/27/13)President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Watch the President’s full remarks

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Chuck Hagel, not only for the introduction but, Chuck, for your lifetime of service — from sergeant in the Army to Secretary of Defense, but always a man who carries with you the memory of friends and fallen heroes from Vietnam.  We’re grateful to you.

I want to thank General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, who has served Arlington with extraordinary  dedication and grace and who will be leaving us, but we are so grateful for the work that she’s done; for Chaplain Brainerd, Secretary Shinseki, all our guests.  And most of all, to members of our armed services and our veterans; to the families and friends of the fallen who we honor today; to Americans from all across the country who have come to pay your respects:  I have to say it is always a great honor to spend this Memorial Day with you at this sacred place where we honor our fallen heroes — those who we remember fondly in our memories, and those known only to God.

Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic.  But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we choose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character — the truth that our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all, and lay down their very lives, to preserve and protect this land that we love.

That character — that selflessness — beats in the hearts of the very first patriots who died for a democracy they had never known and would never see.  It lived on in the men and women who fought to hold our union together, and in those who fought to defend it abroad — from the beaches of Europe to the mountains and jungles of Asia.  This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of fighting in Korea, we offer a special salute to all those who served and gave their lives in the Korean War.  And over the last decade, we’ve seen the character of our country again — in the nearly 7,000 Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields and city streets half a world away.

Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq.  Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home.  Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.  And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan.

And so, as I said last week, America stands at a crossroads.  But even as we turn the page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our nation is still at war.

It should be self-evident.  And in generations past, it was.  And during World War II, millions of Americans contributed to the war effort — soldiers like my own grandfather; women like my grandmother, who worked the assembly lines.  During the Vietnam War, just about everybody knew somebody — a brother, a son, a friend — who served in harm’s way.

Today, it’s different.  Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor.  Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power.  But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day.  Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.  I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.  And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.”  And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right.  As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan.  They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission.  And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington.

Captain Sara Cullen had a smile that could light up a room and a love of country that led her to West Point.  And after graduation, Sara became a Black Hawk pilot — and married a former Black Hawk pilot.  She was just 27 years old when she and four other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission near Kandahar.  This past April, Sara was laid to rest here, in Section 60.  Today, Sara is remembered by her mother, Lynn, who says she is “proud of her daughter’s life, proud of her faith and proud of her service to our country.”  (Applause.)

Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips came from a military family and was as tough as they come.  A combat medic, Frankie was on patrol in Afghanistan three weeks ago when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.  He was so humble that his parents never knew how many lives he had saved until soldiers started showing up at his funeral from thousands of miles away.  And last week, Frankie was laid to rest just a few rows over from Sara.

Staff Sergeant Eric Christian was a born leader.  A member of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Eric had served five tours of duty, but kept going back because he felt responsible for his teammates and was determined to finish the mission.  On May 4th, Eric gave his life after escorting a high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Afghan leaders.  Later, his family got a letter from a Marine who had served two tours with Eric.  In it, the Marine wrote, “There were people who measured their success based on how many enemies they killed or how many missions they led to conquer a foe.  Eric based his success on how many of his friends he brought home, and he brought home many — including me.”  Eric was laid to rest here at Arlington, just six days ago.  (Applause.)

So today, we remember their service.  Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  And just as we honor them, we hold their families close.  Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating.  And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.  I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours:  to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war.

But on a more basic level, every American can do something even simpler.  As we go about our daily lives, we must remember that our countrymen are still serving, still fighting, still putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Both of her sons are Marines.  Her oldest served two tours in Iraq.  Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time.  He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen.  But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her.  She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget.  On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise.  Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country.  Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.

May God bless the fallen and all those who serve.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:44 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines November 11, 2012: President Barack Obama Marks Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Marks Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-11-12

Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Honoring the nation’s military “heroes over the generations, who have served this country of ours with distinction,” President Barack Obama today participated in Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

After laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the president spoke on the grounds’ memorial amphitheater to tell assembled military and their families that Nov. 11 would forever belong to them and, “every service member who has ever worn our nation’s uniform.”

“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,” he said. “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.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 11, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Honoring Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 11-11-12

President Obama at Arlington National CemeteryPresident Barack Obama delivers Veterans Day remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today is Veterans Day, and President Obama, Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden travelled to Arlington National Cemetery to honor our nation’s fallen warriors, veterans and military families. Before President Obama gave remarks, they laid a wreath to “remember every service member who has ever worn our nation’s uniform.”

The President discussed our sacred duty to care for our men and women in uniform and their families, even after their military service has concluded.

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.

Vice President Biden, Dr. Biden, and the First Lady at ArlingtonVice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama applaud as President Barack Obama delivers Veterans Day remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

He also relayed the story of Petty Officer Taylor Morris who served in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team in Afghanistan. Six months ago, Petty Officer Morris was on patrol and stepped on an IED. The explosion cost him both legs, his left arm and his right hand. He is one of only five Americans treated at Walter Reed to survive the amputation of all four limbs. Despite his staggering injuries, Petty Officer Morris has made a remarkable recovery and in July, he came to the White House where President Obama presented him with a Purple Heart.

His story of recovery has been an inspiration for Americans across the country. As President Obama said:

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.

President Obama and Petty Office Taylor MorrisVice President Joe Biden watches as President Barack Obama is photographed with Petty Officer Taylor Morris in the Green Room of the White House, July 26, 2012. The President presented a Purple Heart to Morris, who was participating in a tour of the White House with other wounded warriors and their families. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President on Veterans Day

Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

11:36 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated.  Good morning, everyone.

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 Vietnam veterans.

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 served us.

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.

This 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 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.

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.  (Applause.)

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.

But as 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.

END                   11:48 A.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Honors & Celebrates US Troops on Memorial Day — Recalls Fallen Soldiers, Winding Down of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Obama on Memorial Day Recalls the Fallen, Winding Down of Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-12

Under bright, hazy skies at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama spent his fourth Memorial Day as commander in chief honoring the hundreds of thousands of  soldiers who died serving their country, particularly in the Vietnam War, which began more than 50 years ago.

“From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call,” Obama told hundreds gathered in the humid, midday heat at the cemetery, which is across the Potomac River from the capital.

“They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they’ll never forget. While their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together. Side by side, row by row.  Because each of them loved this country and everything it stands for more than life itself.”

Heeding to custom, Obama also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, pausing to reflect and pray as a lone bugler played taps….READ MORE

President Obama Celebrates U.S. Troops on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-28-12

President Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery (May 28, 2012)
President Barack Obama, with Major General Michael Linnington, Commanding General Military District of Washington, participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama earlier marked Memorial Day with two separate events.

This morning, he visited Arlington National Cemetery, where he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and highlighted the connection shared by each of the heroes who rest at the site:

These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe. When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea. From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call. They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget. And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.

POLITICAL QUOTES
& SPEECHES

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Memorial Amphitheater
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Panetta, for your introduction and for your incredible service to our country.  To General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, Chaplain Berry, all of you who are here today — active duty, veterans, family and friends of the fallen — thank you for allowing me the privilege of joining you in this sacred place to commemorate Memorial Day.

These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe.  When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea.  From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call.  They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget.  And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.

Today, we come together, as Americans, to pray, to reflect, and to remember these heroes.  But tomorrow, this hallowed place will once again belong to a smaller group of visitors who make their way through the gates and across these fields in the heat and in the cold, in the rain and the snow, following a well-worn path to a certain spot and kneeling in front of a familiar headstone.

You are the family and friends of the fallen — the parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters by birth and by sacrifice.  And you, too, leave a piece of your hearts beneath these trees.  You, too, call this sanctuary home.

Together, your footsteps trace the path of our history.  And this Memorial Day, we mark another milestone.  For the first time in nine years, Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq.  (Applause.)  We are winding down the war in Afghanistan, and our troops will continue to come home.  (Applause.)  After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.

Especially for those who’ve lost a loved one, this chapter will remain open long after the guns have fallen silent.  Today, with the war in Iraq finally over, it is fitting to pay tribute to the sacrifice that spanned that conflict.

In March of 2003, on the first day of the invasion, one of our helicopters crashed near the Iraqi border with Kuwait.  On it were four Marines:  Major Jay Aubin; Captain Ryan Beaupre; Corporal Brian Kennedy; and Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey.  Together, they became the first American casualties of the Iraq war.  Their families and friends barely had time to register the beginning of the conflict before being forced to confront its awesome costs.

Eight years, seven months and 25 days later, Army Specialist David Hickman was on patrol in Baghdad.  That’s when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.  He became the last of nearly 4,500 American patriots to give their lives in Iraq.  A month after David’s death — the days before the last American troops, including David, were scheduled to come home — I met with the Hickman family at Fort Bragg.  Right now, the Hickmans are beginning a very difficult journey that so many of your families have traveled before them — a journey that even more families will take in the months and years ahead.

To the families here today, I repeat what I said to the Hickmans:  I cannot begin to fully understand your loss.  As a father, I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to hear that knock on the door and learn that your worst fears have come true. But as Commander-In-Chief, I can tell you that sending our troops into harm’s way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make.  I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation. (Applause.)

And as a country, all of us can and should ask ourselves how we can help you shoulder a burden that nobody should have to bear alone.  As we honor your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters, we have given — who have given their last full measure of devotion to this country, we have to ask ourselves how can we support you and your families and give you some strength?

One thing we can do is remember these heroes as you remember them — not just as a rank, or a number, or a name on a headstone, but as Americans, often far too young, who were guided by a deep and abiding love for their families, for each other, and for this country.

We can remember Jay Aubin, the pilot, who met his wife on an aircraft carrier, and told his mother before shipping out, “If anything happens to me, just know I’m doing what I love.”

We can remember Ryan Beaupre, the former track star, running the leadoff leg, always the first one into action, who quit his job as an accountant and joined the Marines because he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life.

We can remember Brian Kennedy, the rock climber and lacrosse fanatic, who told his father two days before his helicopter went down that the Marines he served alongside were some of the best men he’d ever dealt with, and they’d be his friends forever.

We can remember Kendall Waters-Bey, a proud father, a proud son of Baltimore, who was described by a fellow servicemember as “a light in a very dark world.”

And we can remember David Hickman, a freshman in high school when the war began, a fitness fanatic who half-jokingly called himself “Zeus,” a loyal friend with an infectious laugh.

We can remember them.  And we can meet our obligations to those who did come home, and their families who are in the midst of a different, but very real battle of their own.

To all our men and women in uniform who are here today, know this:  The patriots who rest beneath these hills were fighting for many things — for their families, for their flag — but above all, they were fighting for you.  As long as I’m President, we will make sure you and your loved ones receive the benefits you’ve earned and the respect you deserve.  America will be there for you.  (Applause.)

And finally, for all of you who carry a special weight on your heart, we can strive to be a nation worthy of your sacrifice.  A nation that is fair and equal, peaceful and free.  A nation that weighs the cost of every human life.  A nation where all of us meet our obligations to one another, and to this country that we love.  That’s what we can do.

As President, I have no higher honor and no greater responsibility than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And on days like this, I take pride in the fact that this country has always been home to men and women willing to give of themselves until they had nothing more to give.  I take heart in the strength and resolve of those who still serve, both here at home and around the world.  And I know that we must always strive to be worthy of your sacrifice.

God bless you.  God bless the fallen.  God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:49 A.M. EDT

White House Recap November 5-11, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors America’s Military Veterans on Veterans Day & Introduces Initiatives Creating Jobs for Veterans

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 5-11, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Fighting for Our Veterans

This week, the President attends the G-20 Summit in France, announces actions to put veterans back to work, orders reforms of Head Start Programs, and signs an executive order that continues cuts in government waste.

West Wing Week

Source: WH, 11-11-11

Jobs for Veterans: President Obama on Monday announced the launch of a suite of new tools designed to help our veterans transition more easily into the workforce. The Veterans Job Bank, which will help put veterans in contact with companies that appreciate their skills and are eager to hire them, has more than 550,000 job postings from military-friendly employers and is continuing to grow. On Thursday, the First Lady joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to announce new private sector commitments to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. Later that day the Senate approved the Wounded Warrior and Returning Heroes tax credits, provisions of the American Jobs Act which will offer businesses a $9,600 tax credit for hiring disabled veterans and create additional incentives for employers who hire veterans who have spent four weeks or more out of work.

Honoring our Veterans: Friday morning President Obama honored the millions of Americans who have served in our nation’s military by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. In his speech, the President highlighted the end to the war in Iraq and called for all Americans to support our veterans. “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.”

Head Start: President Obama announced historic reforms to the Head Start program that will require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding. These changes are designed to ensure that all children in Head Start are attending top-notch programs that will help them reach their full potential.

Saving You Money: President Obama signed an Executive Order telling Federal agencies to cut their spending on travel, printing, and IT by 20 percent, which will save billions of dollars. This initiative is only one part of the administration-wide Campaign to Cut Waste, headed by Vice President Joe Biden that promises to eliminate government waste, save taxpayer dollars and make government work more efficiently.

Full Text November 11, 2011: President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran’s Day

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 11-11-11

Veterans Day 2011

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, to mark Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama honored the millions of Americans who have served in our nation’s military by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. After the ceremony, the President thanked veterans for their service, their sacrifice, and their extraordinary accomplishments:

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.

President Obama also spoke about the importance of making sure our veterans, who chose to serve a call greater than themselves, are able to take full advantage of the opportunity they helped secure through their service:

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.

The President said that veterans themselves are proof that there is no challenge too difficult to face:

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.

Click here to read the full remarks

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on Veterans Day

Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

11:40 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  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 Commander-in-Chief.  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.  (Applause.)

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.  (Applause.)  Our transition in Afghanistan is moving forward.  My fellow Americans, our troops are coming home.  (Applause.)

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 percent 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.  (Applause.)

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.  (Applause.)

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.  (Applause.)  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.  (Applause.)

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 Serve.gov.  If you’re a civilian looking for new ways to support our veterans and our troops, join Michelle and Jill Biden at JoiningForces.gov.  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.  (Applause.)

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.  (Applause.)

END 11:51 A.M. EST

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