Obama honors "profound sacrifice" of nation's fallen service members

President Obama commemorated the Memorial Day holiday Monday by honoring the sacrifices of the troops buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which has served as the final resting place for many fallen service members for 150 years.

"The fallen patriots we memorialize today gave their last full measure of devotion, not so we might mourn them, though we do, not so that our nation might honor their sacrifice, although it does," Mr. Obama said. "Everything that we hold precious in this country was made possible by Americans who gave their all."

Before he spoke, the president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.

Following on a trip to Afghanistan this weekend to speak to active duty troops, the president honored the veterans of all America's wars, including more than 2,200 who have died during the nearly 13-year conflict.

"For more than 12 years men and women like those I met with have borne the burden of our nation's security. Now because of their profound sacrifice, because of the progress that they have made, we're in a pivotal moment. Our troops are coming home. By the end of this year our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end," Mr. Obama said.

He is expected to announce a plan for the post-2014 transition in the country in the near future with an eye on preserving the gains American forces have made in training Afghan security forces and strengthening civil society.

The president spoke of the courage and resolve of families who have lost loved ones, which he said gives strength to the rest of the nation. First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's wife, sat with children of fallen service members who were in Washington to participate in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) 20th Annual Good Grief Camp. The two women have been active in efforts to help military families.

Mr. Obama also acknowledged the ongoing scandal at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the country, where long wait times have plagued the system and may have led to the deaths of dozens of veterans who were unable to see a doctor soon enough to seek treatment.

"As we've been reminded in recent days we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and their families and ensure they get the care and benefits and opportunities that they've earned and that they deserve," Mr. Obama said. "These Americans have done their duty, they ask nothing more than that our country does ours, now and for decades to come."

The president spoke about the crisis last week after three weeks of silence on the issue, promising that he "will not tolerate" any misconduct at the VA. He is awaiting the results of multiple investigations and standing by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to complete the agency's nationwide review.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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