Obama to Veterans: "America Will Not Let You Down"

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Updated 2:16 p.m. ET

President Obama spoke in honor of Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday morning, vowing to keep "the promises we've made" to those who have served their country.

"America will not let you down," he said. "We will take care of our own."

Before he spoke at the Memorial Amphitheater, Mr. Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He was joined at Arlington by first lady Michelle Obama.

"To the members of our armed forces and the veterans who are here today, I am deeply honored and humbled to spend Veterans Day with you in this sacred place, where generations of heroes have come to rest and generations of Americans have come to show their gratitude," the president said.

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5615862He spoke of his experiences at the memorial service for those killed in the Fort Hood shootings, saying he saw determination in the eyes of the soldiers there, as he has in the eyes of American military personnel around the world.

"In an era where so many acted only in pursuit of narrow self-interests, they've chosen the opposite," said Mr. Obama. "They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self, many even after they knew they'd be sent into harm's way."

The president told veterans, the fallen and their families that "no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice."

He went on to say that while marking Veterans Day is important, "it is far more important we spend all our days determined to keep the promises that we've made to all who answer this country's call." He said obligations to veterans don't end when they take off their uniform.

(AP)
"If we're honest with ourselves, we will admit there have been times where we, as a nation, have betrayed that sacred trust," Mr. Obama said, pointing to the treatment of Vietnam veterans, who he said "often came home greeted not with gratitude or support but with condemnation and neglect."

"To them and to all who have served, in every battle, in every war, we say that it's never too late to say thank you," he said. "We honor your service. We are forever grateful."

The president had this message to those now serving: "When your tour ends, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil, you will be home in an America that is forever here for you, just as you have been there for us. That is my promise, our nation's promise, to you."

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
At the beginning of his remarks, the president thanked Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill for attending the ceremony. He noted that their son Beau recently returned from Iraq.

"There will be a day, before long, when this generation of servicemen and women step out of uniform," he said. "They will build families and lives of their own. God willing, they will grow old. And someday, their children and their children's children will gather here to honor them."

Before leaving Arlington, the Obamas stopped at an area of the cemetery reserved for Iraq War dead, where they conferred with families visiting gravesites of loved ones.

The White House confirmed to CBS News that this marked the first time a president had walked among the gravesites in the area, which is known as Section 60.

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