Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
Veterans Day: Arlington National Cemetery
November 11, 2012
Mr. President, congratulations to you and the Vice President on your re-election. Let me also congratulate the First Lady and Dr. Biden and thank them for their leadership and support for Veterans and Veterans' families.
- Medal of Honor recipients, Harold Fritz and Brian Thacker;
- Secretary Solis;
- Senator Murkowski;
- Under Secretary Westphal, and other Department of Defense leaders;
- Vice Chairman and Mrs. Winnefeld, and other leaders of our uniformed services;
- Deputy Secretary Scott Gould, and other VA colleagues;
- Rick Delaney, National President of the Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), our co-hosts for this year's celebration;
- Representatives of other Veteran Service Organizations;
Fellow Veterans, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Ninety four years ago today, the guns of World War I fell silent all along the Western Front. Today, we gather at this sacred national shrine to honor and thank Americans of every generation, who, throughout our history, have answered the call of duty to safeguard this Nation during time of war and periods of restless peace.
Twenty-two million living Americans, today, have distinguished themselves by their service in uniform. Their devotion and sacrifice are the bedrock of our sovereignty as a Nation, our values as a people, our security as a democracy, and our offer of hope to those in other lands, who dream of the freedoms we enjoy.
The service of Veterans has provided all of us the gift of liberty. Though the Doughboys of World War I are gone, these Veterans represent every other generation since. And so, as we gather today before the start of the coming seasons of both thanksgiving and gift giving, we are grateful for the blessings bestowed on our country.
This legacy of liberty continues. For the past 11 years, the men and women of our Armed Forces have stood watch in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, Korea, and more than 150 other countries around the globe. More than 1.5 million Veterans have served in the combat theaters of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. Since 11 September, 2001, nearly three million Veterans have departed the military, having fulfilled their duty to the Nation.
Nearly four years ago, the President asked me to do two things; first, make things better for Veterans, now. And then, transform VA to better serve Veterans well into the 21st century.
In doing so, he provided leadership and the support that increased VA's budget requests by nearly 40 percent between 2009 and 2013. These resources greatly enhance the care and services we are able to provide to millions of Veterans:
- Well over 800,000 of them added to VA's healthcare rolls since 2009;
- Disability compensation for 3.53 million Veterans, including more than 359,000, who are 100 percent disabled;
- Over $10 billion dollars in annual educational benefits to more than a million student Veterans and eligible family members;
- The country's largest national cemetery system—131 cemeteries where Veterans are laid to rest in national shrines befitting their service and sacrifice.
Finally, let me acknowledge the wonders accomplished by the First Lady and Dr. Biden through their Joining Forces initiative. I want to thank them both for the genuine care and concern they have for Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families.
Veterans could not ask for stronger advocates than the President, the First Lady, the Vice President, and Dr. Biden.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great personal and professional honor to present to you our Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama