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Obama honors fallen troops at Arlington Cemetery

President Barack Obama arrives on stage at the Memorial Day Observance at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 28, 2012. At center is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is at right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama arrives on stage at the Memorial Day Observance at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 28, 2012. At center is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is at right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — President Barack Obama paid tribute Monday to the men and women who have died defending America, saying the country must strive "to be a nation worthy of your sacrifice."

He said the war in Iraq has ended after nine years and is "winding down" in Afghanistan. But he conceded that the pain of war lingers for the families of those lost in battle, noting mourners can be seen daily at Arlington National Cemetery daily, not just on Memorial Day.

"These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every part of the globe," said the president, speaking under a brilliant sun before a large audience, including many uniformed servicemen and women, at the cemetery, after taking part in the traditional laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The president promised war veterans that "we will be there for you," to ensure that troops returning home from battle get the benefits they deserve.

Obama said sending troops into harm's way was "the most wrenching decision that I have to make. I can promise you I will never do so unless it is absolutely necessary and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."

Preceding Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that "all the men and women who rest here are a constant reminder that freedom is not free." He noted that some 6,400 men and women have died defending America since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Obama was traveling later Monday to the Vietnam War Memorial to give special recognition to the troops who served and died in that war.

In this election year, Obama has been reminding his audiences about the end of the war in Iraq and the move to bring all troops home from Afghanistan by 2014. In a campaign ad released last week, he credits U.S. servicemen who helped in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

With so many troops returning home from their service, Obama says the U.S. needs to return the favor.

"We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "By making sure that they get the health care and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect."

The White House said the gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial War would mark the beginning of a 13-year program to honor those who served during the Vietnam War.

Republican Mitt Romney was scheduled to appear Monday with Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, in San Diego, home to a large number of military personnel and veterans. Romney has made the case that too many veterans are returning home to poor job prospects, casting blame on Obama's economic policies.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report in March found that 12.1 percent of U.S. Armed Forces veterans who served on active duty after September 2001 were unemployed in 2011. The unemployment rate for all veterans was 8.3 percent.

Veterans could play a significant role in the 2012 election. Exit polls in 2008 showed that Obama was supported by about 44 percent of voters who said they served in the military, while 54 percent voted for McCain, a former Navy pilot who was a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War.

A poll released Monday by Gallup found that 58 percent of veterans support Romney and 34 percent back Obama. The results were based on a sample of 3,327 veterans who are registered voters and had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Several closely watched states in the election have large blocs of military voters. Florida, home to several military installations, has more than 1.6 million veterans, according to the Veterans Administration. Pennsylvania has nearly 1 million veterans, while Virginia and North Carolina each have about 800,000 veterans living in their states.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama started the day with a breakfast at the White House for families who have lost loved ones in combat.

Comments

mustardandbiscuit 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm surprised the dead bodies didn't rise from their vaults and run his --- out of that sacred ground, since most of those honorable soldiers died fighting communists.

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Mack711 1 year, 11 months ago

For once we can agree on something.

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teelee 1 year, 11 months ago

How touching, a foreign Communist Socialist dictator that is desperate for votes shows up and lies through his teeth.

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kevin 1 year, 10 months ago

Obama has lied about everything. HE so looks like a football pep-rally when he talks about anything. He has nothing to say about his administration so he yells and blames everyone else for the shape this country is in. Socialist are very happy that 50% take welfare in this country. Anything less and Obama would furious with himself. Do 50% of Americans really want this country to be socialist? I am so glad I had a real commander-in-chief in my time, not like this inexperienced person we have now.

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YeahRight 1 year, 11 months ago

Looks like the Back Woods Trailer Trash is upset their Good ol Boy didn't win.

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

They are just upset that our current President is only in office because ilk like you voted for him and gave him power which he doesn't deserve. So I guess most of the country is turning into Back Woods Trailer Trash?

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BurritoJones 1 year, 11 months ago

I see the 2012 Skull Density winners are here again to politicize everything.

You know what those fallen soldiers would really be upset about? The people they fought and died for turning the day we solute them into a chance to hissyfit over politics. Frankly it's disgusting and you should be embarassed.

Grow up.

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

President Obama doesn't believe what he is saying. He is just particiapting in this ceremony because he has to.

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BurritoJones 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes yes, Obama is a communist/Kenyan/facist/liar/socialist and hates the troops and America. Or you're all willfully ignorant and keep yourselves shielded from reality just so you can turn Memorial Day into yet another politicized argument. This is exactly why your candidates are disappearing, why the country is changing without you and why your children are embarrassed by you. You remind them of all the ignorant and angry people that have stood on the wrong side of progress throughout their history textbooks.

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kevin 1 year, 10 months ago

my kids are not ashamed of me. They are ashamed over the stupid Americans that put Obama in office in the first place. Are you Liberals that blind to not see all the lies and in accurate facts he portrays to get your attention?

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

YeahRight like someone with the screen name BurritoJones would be taken seriously. You libs are a hateful and ignorance bunch.

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Mack711 1 year, 11 months ago

Remember that this is the same man who tried to take medical benefits away from the troops and wanted them to buy their own insurance. Wish he and all of Congress would buy their own insurance just like we do. He also wants to cut funds from the Veterans Administration in order to cut Government spending. He has no repect for the troops that stand in harms way to protect us if he wants to cut their benefits.

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kevin 1 year, 10 months ago

I know not one soldier that said he will vote for Obama. What a lousy commander-in-chief. Doesn't know squat about anything except Socialism.

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