News / USA

Obama Vows to Improve US Veterans' Access to Education, Benefits

President Barack Obama (L) is seen after placing a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2012.
President Barack Obama (L) is seen after placing a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2012.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to serve American military veterans by improving their access to education and medical benefits.

In a speech Sunday marking the annual Veterans Day holiday, Mr. Obama said his administration is helping veterans to obtain a college education and "pursue their dreams." Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, he said authorities also have introduced benefits for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide sprayed by U.S. forces to clear vegetation used as a cover by guerrilla forces.

  • A member of the U.S. Marines Corps looks at the graves in Arlington National Cemetery. November 11th, 2012, Arlington, VA. (VOA / D. Manis)
  • Members of Riverside Military Academy from Gainesville, Ga., march down Baker Street during the 31st annual Veterans Day Parade in Atlanta, Saturday, November 10, 2012. (AP)
  • Early morning sun lights headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va., as the country commemorates Veterans Day, November 11, 2012. (AP)
  • American expatriates walk through rows of crosses following a wreath-laying ceremony to mark U.S. Veterans Day at the American Cemetery at suburban Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP)
  • Jimmy Bacolo, right, of Staten Island, N.Y., a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars 5195 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, N.Y., attends the Veterans Day observance at the 9/11 Memorial, in New York, November 10, 2012. (AP)
  • Members of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps take part in the Flags Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 10, 2012. (Coast Guard / Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando)
  • Kevin Carpenter, of Nassau County Chapter 82 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, ties a yellow ribbon to the tree that survived the terror attack, during the Veterans Day observance at the 9/11 Memorial, in New York, November 10, 2012. (AP)
  • Joseph Manning, right, of Raynham, Mass., and his son Joey, 6, a Cub Scout, place U.S. flags at the graves of deceased veterans at the National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass., Nov. 10, 2012. (AP)

​Mr. Obama also highlighted his fulfillment of a promise to end U.S. military involvement in Iraq, noting that Sunday is the first Veterans Day in a decade in which there are no American troops "fighting and dying" in that country. He said 33,000 U.S. troops also have returned from Afghanistan as a transition begins to Afghan government control of the country following a decade of war.

Mr. Obama said more than one million U.S. service members will transition to civilian life in the next few years. He said the United States has a sacred obligation to take care of them.

Before the speech, the U.S. president placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Communities across America traditionally hold Veterans Day observances and ceremonies. Federal offices are closed Monday in recognition of the holiday.

The Veterans Day holiday began as a U.S. observance of Armistice Day in 1919. The United States and its allies declared an armistice with Germany to end the First World War one year earlier, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Britain also marked the anniversary with a Remembrance Day ceremony at London's Cenotaph war memorial, where Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family honored the war dead of the British Commonwealth.

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande commemorated France's war dead by laying a wreath at the Arc de Triomphe.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: stanchaz from: NYC/USA
November 11, 2012 6:11 PM
I don’t need 11-11, Veterans Day, to remind me that America will always be number one
in my heart …the land and the people that I love.
Problem is, America used to work. The people had work. The system worked. Hey, EVEN the Congress used to work…(sometimes). God knows, it was far, far, far from perfect – but at least we all had some share in the struggles AND the rewards. But somewhere along the way, we lost our way. And now we have an economy and a political system that seems to work only for the rich. What they call “trickle down economics”… leaves most of us out in the cold cold rain; while the super-rich laugh all the way to their offshore banks and tax shelters.
We need to get back to what America was, and what it should be, and what it can be. Occupy Wall Street was an idea whose time was overdue. They say it’s dead….but you can’t kill an idea. You can’t keep down a people’s hopes and dreams for a better life…..a life with dignity and freedom….for us… and for our kids. The idea and the hope of equal opportunity and fair-play is an idea that comes up from the grassroots, and it lifts us up in turn. America is finding it’s voice, and that voice demands fairness and justice – for ALL of us This land IS our land! AND WE WANT IT BACK! We want our LIVES back! We want our FUTURE back!
But It’s more than just words…. It’s more than just politics. It’s your life, and how you want to live it. So why not take some time, find a quiet place somewhere, and consider this: Each of us has only one brief life….one chance….one roll of the dice…and many choices. It’s time to choose….to risk…and to act. If not now…then when? If not you, then….who? You DO have the power my friend….and the choice is yours. Don’t let your dreams die….ACT ON THEM. One person can make a difference. And the place to start change is with YOU. Always was....always will be.
THIS is the best way to honor -and never forget- the Veterans who gave their lives and limbs for us, and for our Country.

by: lgjhere from: USA
November 11, 2012 5:03 PM
I am most proud of the 30 years I spent as a private and an officer in the National Guard, Army Reserves, and on active duty. Today, those serving in the armed forces are viewed by most as heroes, unlike five decades ago when, as a young 2nd Lt. just out of graduate school, my life was disrupted when I was called to active duty during Kennedy’s Berlin Activation. Assigned to a combat engineer unit in Vernal, Utah, before we were transferred to Ft. Lewis, Washington, I was walking outside the Vernal armory in my uniform and made fun of by two ten year olds. It hurt, because I was giving up a year of my life for my country, for them. But that was part of the culture back then, and it only intensified a few years later when the Vietnam War tore America apart and changed the face of Veteran’s Holiday, resulting in fewer military parades and ceremonies. Even ROTC programs were dropped from many colleges in the ensuing years. But recent wars have brought back the holiday’s popularity as a tribute to those serving and those who have fallen. It took three decades for the ’Nam pain to subside and a Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be built in D.C. with the names of 58,000 Americans killed in that senseless war.
My recent book “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z” talks about the futility of the war and how some foreigners view Americans as war lovers. Here’s a quote: “Vietnam War – There is not a better example of the tragic consequences of cultural misconceptions than the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 70s that bitterly divided Americans. The American movie, The Fog of War (2003), won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. In the film, Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the war and the architect of its buildup, meets with his North Vietnamese counterpart and they admit they misinterpreted each other’s motives. They concluded that the U.S. mistakenly viewed the North’s invasion of South Vietnam as a communist move to conquer all of Southeast Asia. We called this the Domino Theory in which country after country would fall like tumbling dominos to the communists. His counterpart said it was nothing but a civil war, something the U.S. had gone through a hundred years prior. The war is yet another painful reminder of the consequences of not understanding each other’s culture. Perhaps your country has reminders of its misunderstandings, too.”
I visited Vietnam 12 years ago and was overwhelmed seeing hoards of people missing limbs and living and working in bullet ridden hovels, troubling reminders of the war. 40,000 had been killed by land mines since the war ended. However, they were most friendly toward Americans. As they simply explained it, the war was over. It finally is in America, too. Peace, and a big thank you to those in uniform today, especially young 2nd Lieutenants embarking on life’s journey who might be derided for serving their country. LJ

by: Anonymous
November 11, 2012 8:12 AM
Veterans Day honors ALL military personnel past and present who served not just in war, but also during peace/
In Response

by: lace114
November 13, 2012 2:18 AM
If America and the President want to do something for Veterans of every era, they need to look into the Veterans Benefits Administration and how they handle claims by veterans. When veterans are waiting for 2 years or more for a determination on their claim it's just wrong. When veterans are denied or low-balled, even when they have documented evidence in their service medical records - something is wrong with the system. When a congressional inquiry is answered with lip service, and the claim sits in limbo for months or years afterwards because of the VBA's attitude that they are "untouchable" and answer to no one - the system is more then broke. The entire system needs an overhaul - obviously Congress has been unable to fix the system.....the Veterans Benefits Administration has promised year after year to clear the backlog, yet vets are still waiting...still losing their jobs, their families and their homes. If America or the President really cared...they would DEMAND that the VBA employees do their job.

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