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July 23, 2012

Obama to US Veterans: 'I've Got Your Back'

by Daniel Robison

WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama on Monday used a speech in Reno, Nevada to a major organization of American military veterans to underscore his record on ending the war in Iraq and winding down U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan.

The president is seeking the support of veterans as he runs for reelection in November.  He says he wants them to remember the pledge he kept to honorably end America's combat role in Iraq, and gradually end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

Obama says he hopes the steps he has taken to help veterans find jobs in a tough economy and assistance to military families will boost his approval rating, particularly among younger veterans.

Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or VFW, a 2.1 million member organization, Obama cited all of this, along with U.S. successes against the al-Qaida terror network.  The United States is stronger and more respected, he said, because of his leadership.

"As you reflect on recent years, as we look ahead to the challenges we face as a nation and the leadership that is required, you don't just have my words, you have my deeds.  You have my track record.  You have the promises I have made and the promises that I have kept," Obama said.

Obama also used the speech to underscore actions his administration has taken to ensure that veterans receive better medical care, including rehabilitation services for those who have suffered life-altering wounds.

The Pentagon says 4,487 Americans were killed and 32,226 others were wounded during the Iraq War.  Private groups say the number of injured is in the hundreds of thousands when traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions are taken into account.

The Obama campaign released a new video on Monday, featuring Iraq and Vietnam veterans praising the president's policies.

"We need a president to bring service members home and help our country get back to where it needs to be.  I think the person who can do that is President Obama," said veteran Hattie Daily, who served in Iraq, in the video.

But public opinion surveys of U.S. veterans show Obama trailing his likely Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

A Rasmussen poll released on Sunday has Romney leading the president 59 to 35 percent among likely voters who have served in the military, a result similar to a Gallup survey three months ago.

When he addresses the VFW on Tuesday, Romney is expected to renew his criticism of the Obama administration's foreign policy, including on Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the president is weakening the military.

President Obama addressed the issue on Monday ahead of Romney's appearance.

"We will maintain our military superiority.  It will be second to none as long as I am president, and well into the future.  We have got the best trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history.  And as commander in chief, I am going to keep it that way," Obama said.

On large mandatory spending cuts -- including for the military -- that could come at the end of the year, Obama urged Congress to agree on a balanced way to reduce the federal deficit while keeping the armed forces strong.

The president said that although there is more work to do, including efforts to further reduce veteran unemployment, homelessness and suicides, he has upheld a "sacred trust" with the nation's veterans, saying "I've got your back."