It was on this day in 1918—famously described as the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”—that the armistice agreement with Germany went into effect bringing a close to the hostilities of World War I. For the past ninety-seven years on the anniversary of this historic event we have dedicated ourselves to honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans. Flanked by military leaders and representatives from the nation’s many veterans’ organizations, President Barack Obama and Secretary of the VA Robert McDonald continued this tradition today during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
In his brief remarks, Secretary McDonald touted achievements aimed at bettering the lives of veterans including a new more comprehensive GI Bill to provide educational opportunities to veterans and their families. McDonald also thanked the President for his support of the VA as it begins down a path toward improvement, specifically noting that Obama’s support had “driven down the backlog in claims by almost 90%” and “improved access to quality healthcare for all veterans.” Thereafter, President Obama took to the podium.
“To veterans across America,” began the President, “whether you served on the beaches of Europe, in the jungles of Asia, or the deserts of the Middle East; whether you served here at home, or overseas, in wartime or in peace; whether you served proudly in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard: you are part of an unbroken chain of patriots who have served this country with honor throughout the life of our nation.” Drawing reference to the sacred grounds of Arlington where he stood, President Obama called upon all American’s to proudly honor the men and women who have served in uniform.
“Our tributes will ring hollow,” Obama said, if we limit ourselves the thanks we give for our veterans to but one day each year. Calling on Americans not to forget “the bonds between the service of our veterans and our obligations as citizens,” the President reminded the nation that it has a duty to its veterans. Noting ongoing problems such as long wait times for medical appointments or a lack of timely healthcare, Obama said that neither he nor the Secretary were satisfied that veterans were receiving the care they need when they need it.
“On this Veterans Day, here’s what I want every American to know: our veterans are some of the most talented, driven, capable, people on earth.” Reminding Americans of the leadership that veterans had learned through their service, he implored businesses to view them as valuable and qualified potential workers. The President said veterans were the exact type of people we need to keep America competitive as a nation.
After calling on his fellow citizens to “express gratitude not just in words, not just on one day, but through deeds every day,” the President concluded the ceremonies with a simple “God bless our veterans and God bless America.”