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Obama: Spirit of Memorial Day Must Extend Beyond Actual Observance

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2009 – America’s troops and their families embody what’s best in the country, and the American people have a responsibility to serve them as well as the troops serve the country, President Barack Obama said this weekend during his radio address to the nation.

Obama expressed hope that the spirit of Memorial Day will extend beyond the actual holiday observance.

He said he’s committed as president to honoring the nation’s “sacred trust” to those who wear or have worn the uniform – a trust he conceded it hasn’t always lived up to.

“All too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility,” he said. “We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve.”

In vowing to ensure that’s not repeated, Obama said he’ll look out for the best interests of the men and women in uniform in making national security decisions.

“I will send our servicemen and women into harm’s way only when it is necessary, and ensure that they have the training and equipment they need when they enter the theater of war,” he said.

Obama recounted his visit to the U.S. Naval Academy commissioning May 22.

“Looking out at all of those young men and women, I was reminded of the extraordinary service that they are rendering to our country,” he said. “And I was reminded, too, of all of the sacrifices that their parents, siblings, and loved ones make each day on their behalf and on our behalf.”

The president said his agenda ensures the United States lives up to its responsibilities to those who serve by:

-- Building a 21st-century Department of Veterans Affairs, financed to provide veterans the support and benefits they have earned, and expand quality health care to a half million more veterans;

-- Eliminating waste and inefficiency in defense projects to better protect troops, the country and taxpayer dollars; and

-- Putting the new Post-9/11 GI Bill into effect so troops returning from deployments can pursue college educations, find work and provide for their families.

“These are some of the ways we can, must, and will honor the service of our troops and the sacrifice of their families,” he said.

But Obama also called on individual citizens to support troops bearing the burden of current combat operations.

“That can mean sending a letter or a care package to our troops overseas. It can mean volunteering at a clinic where a wounded warrior is being treated or bringing supplies to a homeless veterans center,” he said. “Or it can mean something as simple as saying ‘thank you’ to a veteran you pass on the street.”

These efforts, large and small, are as important every day of the year as on Memorial Day, he said.

“Our fighting men and women – and the military families who love them – embody what is best in America,” he said. “And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us.”

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