The United States' commitment to its veterans "is more urgent than ever" as the current chapter of war comes to an end, President Obama said Monday, as he commemorated Veterans Day at a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
This winter, troop levels in Afghanistan will be down to 34,000, and by this time next year, the process of handing over control to Afghan security forces will be nearly complete. "The longest war in American history will end," Mr. Obama said.
"As is true after every conflict, there's a risk the devoted services of our veterans might fall from the forefront of our minds," the president continued. "Part of the reason we are here is to pledge we will never forget... Even though this time of war is coming to a close, our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun."
Mr. Obama promised to keep providing "unprecedented support" to veterans -- improving veterans' health care, reducing claims backlogs and providing them with access to education -- "even as we make difficult fiscal choices as a nation."
The president also paid tribute to one of the country's oldest veterans, 107-year-old Richard Overton, who served in World War II. "This is the life of one American veteran, living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free," Mr. Obama said.
Overton and other veterans attended a breakfast in their honor in the White House State Dining Room before Monday's ceremony.
Along with Mr. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden also attended the wreath-laying ceremony.
Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden co-wrote an op-ed published in various military publications Monday morning touting their initiative Joining Forces, which helps connect veterans and their families with jobs and resources at home. Since the initiative launched, businesses like Walmart, Starbucks and Facebook have hired hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses, they noted, while lawmakers in 44 states have changed their laws to help veterans get jobs.
"The goal of this initiative was to rally all Americans to step up and serve you as well as you have served this country," they wrote.