america, founded in 1929. it's the nation's largest and most influential association of military officers. with more than 390,000 members, it is the leading voice representing active duty, guard, and reserve, retired, and former officers of all seven uniformed services and their spouses, families, and survivors. they offer a powerful force, speaking for a strong national defense and equitable treatment for all who serve and have served their country in uniform. the network of state councils and more than 400 affiliate chapters across the u.s. actively promote the concept of lifetime service at the national, state, and community levels. as you can see, they live their motto. we never stop serving. they are represented today by their national president.
ladies and gentlemen, please welcome mr. norburt ryan, jr. [ applause ] >> mr. president, mr. vice president, secretary and mrs mrs. mcdonald, secretary and mrs. carter. members of congress, members of the joint chiefs of staff and spouses, medal of honor recipients. fellow veterans, members of the armed forces, gold star families, and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and welcome to all in at tend dance here and across the country on this most important day, veteran's day. it is an honor for the military officer's association of america to co-host this year's ceremony, a first in our 86-year history of providing servant leadership
on behalf of the entire military family. today we join all americans to honor the inspiring shared sacrifice and commitment of past and present membersov -- member of the armed forces. thankfully, honor, valor, and love of country have always been the defining characteristics of america's military, from bunker hill to the mountains in afghanistan. but the battlefield is not the exclusive birthplace of heroism. our nation's heros are also here at home in the form of families and loved ones of our returning warriors, who provide the care and understanding that enable them to regain a life of normalcy. our heros are also the organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life
of veterans in ways big and small. veteran's day reminds us that this nation's greatest asset is not our leading-edge technology, rich farmland, or material wealth. no, our nation's greatest treasure is our sons and daughters who serve and sacrifice in our nation's uniform. that is why we all never stop serving those who serve or have served. for many we do, we risk breaks the faith that will inspire future generations to serve. thank you for joining us this morning and giving thanks and praise to all who have served. my god bless our nation's veterans, past, present, and future, and may god always bless the united states of america. thank you. [ applause ] >> please welcome the honorable
robert mcdonald, secretary of veteran's affairs. [ applause ] >> mr. president, vice president biden, thank you both for your leadership and your steady strong advocacy for our vagus's veterans, service members, their families, and survivors. you have shown in so many ways that your respect,ed -- admirat and gratitude for those two have served. thank you. medal of honor recipients, thomas kelly, and brian that is corrector, we're honored by your courage and honor this beatle.
senators collins, franken, cotton, tullis, your spouses and guests, ambassador rice, chairman dunford, general silva, general grass, admiral richardson, all of your spouses and guests, other distinguished leaders of the department of defense and military services. former va administrator, vice admiral norm ryan. military officers association of america, our co-hosts for this year's celebration, and all of the representatives of our veteran service organizations. fellow veterans, members of our armed forces, va colleagues and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, as many of you know, president obama is
scheduled to present the medal of honor to an american veteran tomorrow. tomorrow's ceremony will mark only the ten's time a service member has received the highest honor. seven more were posthumously awarded the medal. president obama will address the specifics of captain growberg's heroism. without hesitation, captain growberg acted in a manner that saved the lives of many of his comrades. tragically he could not save them all. when he was informed last month that he would receive the medal of honor, he said, and i quote, this medal belongs to them. it's my mission to tell everyone. thank you for recognizing me, but this does not belong to me. it belongs to them. that's how i'm coping with it
mentally. this gives me an opportunity to event them and their families. captain growberg is an example of every generation of american veterans. for almost 2.5 centuries they have answered the calls to arms to preserve and defend the ideas behind the words that are both vision and conscious of our democracy. we hold these views to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they have certain rights among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happyenings. each generation has done its part to deliver a strong and free america to the next generation. they have done so with great determination, personal toughness, and willingness to risk it all for others. this veteran's day, we want to especially acknowledge those who served in two difficult
conflicts. this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of world war ii, and the beginning of our 50th commemoration of the decade-long war in vietnam. for those who fought thank you. americans are ever grateful for your sacrifices. the president and vice president understand and value the service and sacrifice of veterans. that's why they have provided strong and increasing resources for care and benefits, support of the new gi bill to educate the next generation of american leaders. tremendous support to help va drive down the backlog in claims by almost 90%, and improve access to quality healthcare for all veterans. as the president said in his state of the union address this year, as a new generation of veterans come home, we owe them every opportunity to live the american dream they help defend.
the first lady and dr. jill biden are also unwavering supporters of veterans and service members. they have joined forces to bring the public and private sectors together in support of employment of service members, veterans and all of their family members among many other innerves. veterans could not ask for stronger advocates than our president, vice president, and their wives. ladies and gentlemen, it's a great personal and professional honor to present to you, our commander in chief. please join me in welcoming the president of the united states, barack obama. [ applause ] >> thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you so much. please be seated. thank you. >> thank you, bob, for your
service to our nation as an army airborne ranger, and your tireless work on behalf of your fellow veterans to vice president joe biden, general dunford, major general becker, distinguished guests, to our outstanding veteran's service organizations and their leadership, to our men and women in uniform, and most of all, to our proud veterans and your families, it is a great privilege to be with you once again, and to captain growberg as bob just mentioned tomorrow it will be my honor to present you with the medal of honor, our nation's highest military decoration. so all of our veterans here
today, to veteran's across america, whether you served on the beaches of europe, jungles of asia, the deserts of the middle east, whether you served here at home or overseas, in wartime or in peace, whether you served proudly in the army, the navy, air force, marines, or coast guard, you are part of an unbroken chain of patriots who have served this country with honor through the life of our nation. on these sacred grounds, where generations of here rose have come to rest, we remember all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. today we gather once more to salute every patriot who has ever proudly worn the uniform of the united states of america. this year, as we mark 70 years,
since our victory in the second word war, we pay special tribute to a generation that literally saved the world. we are joined by several of those heros, including our oldest known female world war ii vet, army lieutenant colonel luda c mcgrath who this month turns 108. [ applause ] >> there she is. [ applause ] >> and i would ask all of our veterans and families of world
war ii, if you can stand, please stand or raise your hands so america can thank you one more time. [ applause ] today in big cities and small towns across our country, there will be ceremonies around flag poles and parades down main street, to properly express our gratitude, to show our appreciation to the men and women who served so that we might live free. it is right that we do so. but our tributes will ring hollow if we stop there. if tomorrow after the parades and the ceremonies, we roll out the banners and sweep the veteran's halls, and go back to our daily lives, forgetting the
bond between the service of our veterans and our obligations as citizens, then we will be doing a profound disservice to our veterans and to the very cause for which they served. this day is not only about gratitude for what they have done for us. it is also a reminder of all that they still have to give to our nation and our duty to them. that's what i want to talk about, briefly, today. we're in the midst of a new wave of american veterans, waves of veterans have completed their military service and returned to civilian life. each year, at least another 200,000 do the same. our 9/11 generation of veterans are joining the ranks of those who have come before, including many of you, our veterans of
korea and vietnam. and our tributes today will ring hollow, if we do not ensure that our veterans receive the care that you have earned and that you deserve. the good news is is that in recent years we have made historic investments to boost the va budget, expand benefits, offer more mental health care and improved care for our wounded warriors. we now have slashed the disabilities claim backlog by nearly 90%. we're reducing the outrage of veteran's homelessness, and have helped tens of thousands of our veterans get off of the streets. still the unacceptable problems that we have seen, like long wait times and some veterans not getting the timely care that they need is a challenge for all of us, if we are to match our
words with deeds, and my message to every single veteran, to veterans across this country is that i am still not satisfied and we're going to keep investing in the facilities and the physicians, and the staff to make sure that our veterans get the care that you need when you need it. that is our obligation and we are not going to let up. [ applause ] >> our tributes today will also ring hollow if we don't provide our veterans with the jobs and opportunities that you need when you come home. that's why we have helped more than 1.5 million veterans and their families pursue an education under the post 9/11 gi bill, that's why we worked to make sure every state now provides veterans and their families with in-state tuition. why we're fighting to make it easier for our veterans to get
the licenses and certifications to transition the outstanding skills they gained in the armed services to civilian jobs. that's why we're helping more veterans and military spouses find jobs. and today the veteran's unemployment rate is down to 3.9%, even lower than the national average. [ applause ] >> but this can't just be a job for government. we all have a role to play. i realize that with less than 1% of americans serving in uniform, the other 99% of folks don't always see and appreciate the incredible skills and assets that our veterans can offer. on this veteran's day here is what every american to know. our veterans are some of the most talented, driven, capable
people on earth. think about the leadership that they learned. 20-somethings leading platoons in life or death situations. the cutting edge technologies that they have mastered. the ability to adapt to changing and unpredictable situations. they have helped reconstruct towns and immediate disputes. they have learned how to work on teams, how to stay committed to a mission, how to solve seemingly intractable problems. they get stuff done, and they are selfless, brave, and qualified, and america needs folks who know how to get stuff done. [ applause ] >> if you can save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance. if you can oversee a convoy or millions of dollars of assets in a conflict zone, you sure can help manage a company's supply
chain. if you can maintain the most advanced weapons in the world, surely you can manufacture the next generation of advanced technology right here at home. our veterans will tell you themselves. they may have put away their uniforms, but they are not finished serving their country, and that includes our wounded warriors who tell me as soon as they can, they want to serve their country again. they are exactly the kind of people we need to keep america competitive in the 21st century. that's why more and more companies are hiring veterans. not out of charity, not out of patriotism, or some moral obligation, although they do have those obligations, but because they know it's good for their bottom line. every day our veterans help keep america strong. every day. responding to natural disasters here at home and around the world, working to end homelessness, and give more of
their brothers and sisters in arms the resources they need to transition into every day life. there are veterans who started a coffee shop that is so good, my own staff voted to have it served in the white house. and understand we consume a lot of coffee in the white house. so to my sleep deprived staff those guys are pretty heroic. [ laughter ] [ applause ] >> our veterans are moms dads teachers doctors engineers, entrepreneurs, social workers, and community leaders. they are serving in state houses across the country. they are serving in congress. we have got a proud veteran, retired navy captain scott kelly, come -- commander of the international space station and just become the first astronaut to serve the longest consecutive
flight in space. [ applause ] >> our veterans are already making america great every single day. so my message today is simple, if you want to get the job done, hire a vet. if you are a business that needs team players who know how to lead and execute an idea, hire a vet. if you are a school system that needs dedicated passionate teachers, hire a veteran. if your non-profit needs tested and can follow through on a vision, hire a vet. every community, ever sector of city can benefit from hiring a veteran. they are ready to serve and they will make you proud. [ applause ] >> i want to just give you one example. a young woman named jennifer madden. jen joined the army at 17 years old.
she wanted to be just like her grandpa, a korean war veteran. her very first day of basic training was september 11th, 2001. she deployed to afghanistan, where she pulled security details during attacks. she lost one of our close friends in combat. when she came home, she tried to get back into her old life, but she found she simply couldn't stay focused in school or work. she was struggling to relate to her family and friends. soon she was self medicating, and become homeless. jen felt like she had lost her mission, her sense of purpose. but then thanks to an organization that connects veterans with therapists who donate their time, jen was able to get counseling at no charge.
she started dealing with her posttraumatic stress. with a lot of hard work she started pulling her life back together. today jen and the love of her life, josh, are raising two beautiful children. she is a licensed nurse. she works at a rehab facility helping folks who are just like her, including veterans get back on their feet. and through michelle and jill biden's joining forces initiative, she is an advocate for her fellow veterans. jen is here today. and i want jen to stand if she can, because i want everybody to thank her for her courage, her example, for her telling her story. we are extraordinarily grateful. thank you, jen. [ applause ] >> and i tell jen's story,
because like all of our brave men and women in uniform, jen represents the best of who we are as a nation. she has sacrificed for us, and sometimes has the scars seen and unseen that are part of that sacrifice. and she's an example of what is possible when we express our gratitude not just in words, not just on one day, but through deeds every day, when we open our hearts and give hope to our returning heros. and we harness your talents and your drive, and when we honor your inherent sense of purpose and empower you to continue serving the country you love. what has always made america great, what has always made us exceptional, are the patriots who generation after generation
dedicate themselves to building a nation that is stronger, freer, a little more perfect. on this day and every day, we thank you. god bless our veterans and your families, and god bless the united states of america. [ applause ] >> that is the president of the united states on this the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, veteran's day, armistice day if you are overseas. those who served and world war i one supposed to be the war a to end all wars, it was not. mike viqueira in a sentence, if you could sum up what he said, hire a vet. >> reporter: yes. you see the secretary of veteran's affairs there to his right, robert mcdonald lauding
the progress that has been made at that agency since the scandal, the healthcare of the long wait lines, veterans dying while dating for healthcare at facilities. obviously still long wait times as the president alluded to, but saying that things are on the right track there. also talking about his initiative to reduce homelessness. we mentioned there are several municipalities who say they have completely erased homelessness among veterans. obviously still something of an epidemic in this country. and the president talking about keeping the shoulder to the wheel and moving that policy ahead as well. at times a solemn occasion, but at times the president hitting some grace notes even some happy notes pointing out the oldest living female world war ii
veteran was among the crowd, 108 years old, obviously retired veteran. an upbeat tone from the president, but remaining everyone now that we are, as we put it at the top of his remarks, in the mid-s of a new wave of american veterans coming home from afghanistan, coming home from iraq, and meanwhile, the president extending the stay in afghanistan, that hanging over this ceremony today. now 3500 americans back in iraq as well, and the president sending just handful of commandos to fight isil in syria. so not a rosy picture, certainly around the world to say the least, but the president talking about those veterans who have come home, and talking about all of the things his administration is trying to do to ease their transition back into american society. >> i was thinking about frank
european and african leaders meet to see what they can do about the refugee crisis across the continent. you are watching al jazeera, i'm david foster, good to have your company. also coming up in the next 30 minutes. mass demonstrations in afghanistan's capitol after seven members of an ethnic community are killed. police in south africa are jailed for 15 years each for the murder of a taxi driver. nigeria's president finally forms a