Obama Urges Nation to Salute Service in Iraq
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2010 President Barack Obama called on the American people today to provide new care, opportunity and commitment to the million military men and women who've served in Iraq.
On Aug. 31, 2010, President Barack Obama will mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq. Learn how you can join the president in saluting the military's service in Iraq. Go to the White House website for four ways you can share your salute. White House photo by Pete Souza, April 7, 2009
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
After more than seven years, the United States "will end its combat mission in Iraq and take an important step forward in responsibly ending the Iraq war," he said during his weekly radio address.
That responsibility, he stressed, includes caring for the men and women in uniform who volunteered to fight.
"What this new generation of veterans must know is this: our nation’s commitment to all who wear its uniform is a sacred trust that is as old as our republic itself," he said. "It is one that, as president, I consider a moral obligation to uphold."
He called upon the the nation to pay tribute to all who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting the two wars are America’s longest continuous combat engagement.
"For the better part of a decade," he said, "our troops and their families have served tour after tour with honor and heroism, risking and often giving their lives for the defense of our freedom and security."
Some U.S. troops will remain to support and train Iraqi forces, partner with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protect civilian and military efforts, he said. But he pledged all U.S. troops will be home from Iraq by the end of next year.
More than a million U.S. troops have served in Iraq and more than a million who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined the ranks of America’s veterans. Obama said his administration has worked to make the nation's veterans policy more responsive.
"We’re building a 21st century VA, modernizing and expanding VA hospitals and health care, and adapting care to better meet the unique needs of female veterans," he said. "We’re creating a single electronic health record that our troops and veterans can keep for life. We’re breaking the claims backlog and reforming the process with new paperless systems."
Obama added that wounded warrior facilities are being built throughout the Defense Department, and more is being done to help those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"For many of our troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home," he said. "Too many suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – the signature injuries of today’s wars – and too few receive proper screening or care. We’re changing that.
"We’re directing significant resources to treatment, hiring more mental health professionals, and making major investments in awareness, outreach and suicide prevention," he said. "And we’re making it easier for a vet with PTSD to get the benefits he or she needs."
First lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, have forged a national commitment to support military families, he noted. This includes new support for caregivers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recovery, and funding and implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is already helping some 300,000 veterans and their family members pursue a college education.
New resources are also being devoted to job training and placement to help veterans trying to find work in "a very tough economy," the president said. "I’ve directed the federal government to hire more veterans, including disabled veterans, and I encourage every business in America to follow suit.
"This new generation of veterans has proven itself to be a new generation of leaders," he stressed. "They have unmatched training and skills; they’re ready to work; and our country is stronger when we tap their extraordinary talents."
The presidend closed his address by encouraging people to visit whitehouse.gov to send the troops text and video messages of thanks and support.
"Let them know that they have the respect and support of a grateful nation," he said. "That when their tour ends; when they see our flag; when they touch our soil; they’ll always be home in an America that is forever here for them – just as they’ve been there for us."