Americans, The President and First Lady Honor and Thank Veterans Today

Today we honor those who serve our country so that we may live in freedom.

Text, video and pictures from whitehouse.gov

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President Barack Obama shares a thumbs-up with a veteran at a Veteran's Day breakfast in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 11, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

In a cold but light drizzle today, after breakfast with veterans in the East Room of the White House, the President and the First Lady along with the Vice President and Dr. Biden went to Arlington National Cemetery. The President took part in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, then spoke at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

The President began his remarks extending his thanks to VA Secretary Shinseki, and to the Bidens and their son Beau, who just returned from Iraq. He expressed humility to be speaking to the veterans in the audience, and spoke in awe of the “determination” he saw in the eyes of those grieving yesterday at Fort Hood. Noting that there have been times in the past when America did not stand by our veterans, the President pledged that this would never happen again:

That is my message to all veterans today. That is my message to all who serve in harm’s way. To the husbands and wives back home doing the parenting of two. To the parents who watch their sons and daughters go off to war, and the children who wonder when mom and dad is coming home. To all our wounded warriors, and to the families who laid a loved one to rest. America will not let you down. We will take care of our own.

And to those who are serving in far-flung places today, 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. That is my promise — our nation’s promise — to you.

Ninety-one years ago today, the battlefields of Europe fell quiet as World War I came to a close. But we don’t mark this day each year as a celebration of victory, as proud of that victory as we are. We mark this day as a celebration of those who made victory possible. It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in and fought for a set of ideals. Because they did, our country still stands; our founding principles still shine; nations around the world that once knew nothing but fear now know the blessings of freedom.

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President Barack Obama addresses a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to mark Veterans Day Nov. 11, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

That is why we fight — in hopes of a day when we no longer need to. And that is why we gather at these solemn remembrances and reminders of war — to recommit ourselves to the hard work of peace.

There will be a day before long when this generation of servicemen and women step out of uniform. They will build families and lives of their own. God willing, they will grow old. And someday, their children, and their children’s children, will gather here to honor them.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

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President Barack Obama, second from left, and Gen. Karl Horst, right, stop to talk with visitors among the graves of soldiers from the Iraq and Afghan conflicts in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 11, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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