By Greg Jaffe
President Obama focused his Veterans Day remarks on the growing ranks of former troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now searching for new ways to serve their country at home.
“We’re in the midst of a new wave of American veterans,” said Obama, referring to a generation of men and women who have weathered the longest stretch of war in U.S. history. Those veterans have struggled in recent years to get care from an overwhelmed Department of Veterans Affairs. They’ve faced a higher unemployment rate than their civilian peers and an increase in suicides.
At Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, Obama spoke of progress in reducing wait times for veterans and a plummeting unemployment rate among vets. He stressed the country’s continuing obligation to do more to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs and help veterans find work.
The tenor of the president’s visit to the cemetery this Veterans Day offered a striking counterpoint to past trips. On his first Veterans Day as president, Obama made his way somberly through Section 60 of the cemetery, where the dead from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried. Clad in a black overcoat, he spent time with families of the deceased who had come to stand vigil in the cemetery despite a cold rain. Back then, Obama was weighing whether to send tens of thousands of new troops to Afghanistan.
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