President Obama speaks at Memorial Day Vietnam War tribute
Obama: Let us resolve to take care of our vets as they took care of us
- Duration 24:00
- Date May 28, 2012
Obama: Let us resolve to take care of our vets as they took care of us
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Good afternoon -- about it.
Job thank you for.
The words and your friendship.
And your life of service.
Of the Vietnam War.
And -- hot.
But you are here.
To honor your loved ones.
And I -- could not be more honored.
To be here with you.
It -- speaks -- complexity.
Of America's time in Vietnam that.
Cannot agree on precisely when.
The war began.
American advisors have served there and died there.
As early as the mid fifties.
Major combat operations will not begin until.
The mid sixties.
But if any year.
In between illustrated the changing nature of our involvement.
It was 1962.
It was January.
And so I got.
Or army pilots.
Strapped on their helmets.
And border -- helicopters.
They lifted off.
Raced over treetops carrying south Vietnamese troops.
It was a single rated against an enemy strongholds.
Just a few miles into the jungle.
But it was one of America's first major operations.
In that far away land.
Fifty years later.
We come to this -- -- this sacred place.
We can step towards.
Such -- name.
Today is Memorial Day when we were call all those who gave everything.
In the darkness of war.
So we could stand here in the glory of sprint.
And today begins the fiftieth.
Of our war in Vietnam.
We honor each.
Of those names etched in stone.
We salute all.
Who -- -- them.
We stand with the families.
Who love them still.
You've come here.
To be -- them once more.
And in the simple things -- left behind.
They're offering us.
Your mementos or gifts.
We get a glimpse.
Of the lives they let.
The blanket that covered him as a baby.
The baseball bat.
He swung as a board.
The photo of the grandchild.
He never met.
-- -- -- -- -- -- The medals she earned.
Still -- And of course some of the things lecture -- special meaning and known only to the veterans.
Can of -- A packet of Eminem's.
The container of spam.
The whole field ration.
It's here we feel the depth of your sacrifice.
And here we see a piece of our larger American story.
Our founders in their genius gave us a test.
They set out to make.
A more perfect union.
And so it falls.
To every generation material network.
To keep moving forward.
Sometimes painful past.
Keep striving for our ideals.
And one of the most.
Painful chapters of our history was Vietnam.
Most particularly how we.
Treated our troops.
Who serve there.
You often blamed for -- and start.
When you should have been commended.
Who's serving your country.
You're sometimes blamed for misdeeds of -- When the honorable service of the many should have been praised.
You came home and sometimes were denigrated.
When you should've been celebrated.
It was a national shame.
That should never happen.
That's why here today.
That it will not happen again.
-- -- central part of this fiftieth anniversary will be to tell your story as it should have been told all along.
Another chance to set.
The record straight.
That's one more way we keep perfecting our union.
Setting the record straight and starts to back.
Because history will honor your service.
Your name's will join a story of service that stretches back two centuries.
Let us tell the story of a generation of service members.
Every color every create rich poor officer and enlisted.
Who -- would just as much patriotism and honor.
As -- before you.
-- never forget.
But most of those who served in Vietnam did so by choice.
So -- did you volunteer.
Your country it was a war and you said send me.
That includes all women in Vietnam every one of your volunteer.
Those were drafted -- too.
And carried their burden.
-- You did your duty.
You persevered through some of the most brutal conditions ever faced.
By Americans and -- The suffocating heat.
Drenching monsoon rains.
An enemy that come out of nowhere that is just as quickly.
So most intense urban combat in history and battles for a single pill.
The -- raged for weeks.
Let it be said in -- hell holes like prior.
And the -- and Hanoi Hilton.
Our Vietnam POW's been simply -- you wrote some of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity and annals of military history.
As -- nation.
We've long celebrated the courage of our forces at Normandy.
And Iwo jima.
And heartbreak ridge.
So let -- also speak -- your courage.
-- in case son.
-- -- -- -- Remember hill to rolling thunder.
All too often it's forgotten that you our troops in Vietnam one.
Every major battle that you fought in.
When you came home I know many of you put your medals away.
Talk primitive -- or box in the closet.
You went on what their lives started families.
-- and talk too much about your service.
Consequence this nation is not always fully appreciated.
But your lives -- came next.
Let -- also tell the story of a generation that came home and how even though some Americans turned their back on you.
You never turned your back on America.
By generations before you took off.
The uniform but.
You never stopped serving.
The game teachers and police officers and nurses.
Ball we count on every single -- -- came up to the Norris.
-- competence and pioneering industries that changed the world.
You -- -- and public servants from.
Town all -- Capitol Hill lifting up our communities.
You reminded us what it was like to serve.
What it meant to serve.
Those of you who stayed in uniform you rolls through the ranks.
Became leaders and every service.
Learn from your experience in Vietnam and rebuild our military into the -- -- of the world has ever known.
And lets you remember.
All those Vietnam veterans who came back and serve again.
In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You did not stop -- Even if you succeeded in all these endeavors.
You did something more.
Maybe the most important thing you did.
You looked after each other.
When your government -- live up to its responsibilities you spoke out.
Fighting for the care benefits you would turn them over time transforming -- the VA.
And of course one of these Vietnam veterans is now our outstanding secretary of veterans affairs friction exactly.
You looked after one another.
He cared for one another.
These people were always talking about PT SB at the time you understood it.
And you're there for each other.
Just as importantly you can just take -- your own.
You cared for those that follow.
You made -- -- mission to make sure today's troops get the respect and support.
That all too often you did not receive.
Because -- you.
Because our Vietnam veterans led the charge.
The post nine elevenths GI bill was helping hundreds of thousands of today's veterans go to college and pursue their careers.
Because -- you because you don't let us forget.
And our airports are returning troops get off the airplane.
And you were there to shake their hands.
Because have you across America community's -- welcome home our forces from Iraq.
And what our troops.
Returned from Afghanistan.
America will give this entire 9/11 generation welcome home they deserve that happen in part because you do.
This is the story.
About Vietnam service members.
The story -- -- needs to be told.
This is what this fiftieth anniversary is all about.
It's another opportunity to say to -- Vietnam veterans.
What we should have been saying from the beginning.
You did your job.
He served -- -- You made us proud.
He came home and you.
Helps build the America.
That we love and that we cherish.
So here today -- must be said.
You have earned your place among the greatest generations.
At this time I would ask all our Vietnam veterans.
Those -- you can stand please stand.
All those already spending raise your hands.
As we save those simple words which always.
Read our troops when they come home.
From here on out welcome home.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Welcome home.
There were calling on all the men.
Did you join this up.
Everybody can do something.
Five decades removed from a time of division among Americans this anniversary can.
Reminders of what we share as Americans.
That includes honoring our Vietnam veterans -- never forgetting the lessons of that war.
Let us resolve that when America sends our sons and daughters in -- harm's way we will always give them make clear mission.
-- always give them a sound strategy.
We will give them the equipment they need to get the job done we will have their backs.
We will resolve the leaders will be candid about the risks and about progress.
And have a plan to bring our troops home with honor.
Let us resolve -- never forget the cost of war.
Including the terrible loss of innocent civilians than a -- Vietnam but at all -- We know the -- sacrifice and service is the very definition of glory.
-- -- Does not glorious we -- war.
What we -- we've.
We do sort of protect ourselves because is necessary.
Let's resolve that in our democracy we can debate and disagree.
Even in a time a war but let us never -- patriotism as a political sword.
Patriots can support a war patrons -- oppose a war.
And whatever our view but I've always stand united in support of our troops who we placed in harm's way.
Active our solemn obligation.
Let's resolve to take care of our veterans as well they've taken care of us.
I just tall.
Not just the first.
Five years after -- war but.
First five decades.
-- Vietnam veterans this means the disability benefits.
Connected Agent Orange.
It means job opportunities and mental health care.
To help -- stand tall again.
Means ending the tragedy of veterans -- -- was -- that every veteran who has fought for America has.
-- hold it on America you should up the fight for a roof over your head when you -- on behalf.
For the country that you love.
When an American does not come back.
Americans still missing from the Vietnam War.
Let us resolve to do everything in our power to bring them home.
This is our solemn promise.
The mothers -- Sarah Shane who joined us today it's 93 years old who have I've -- her son.
Major Donald Shea junior.
Missing in action for 42 years.
-- -- -- Thank you for your -- got lots of -- the promise we're fulfilling today to the Morrone fan would.
The Fayetteville Arkansas.
43 years after he went missing.
We can announce that army captain -- -- The third is coming home.
And you'll finally rest in peace.
You know some -- this war era a star on our country.
But here's what I sent.
As -- -- -- the tissue around it.
Become stronger than before.
The -- us finally.
We might begin to see the true legacy.
Because of Vietnam and our veterans.
Not -- American power smarter.
We honor our military more.
We take care of our veterans better.
Because of the hard lessons of Vietnam because the view.
America is stronger than -- -- And finally on this anniversary.
In all the -- to call.
Let us remember what binds us.
As one people.
Is important for all of us -- you bought in the Vietnam.
War fought against.
What we were too young to be shaped by that.
It is important that our children.
Understand the sacrifices that were made by our troops in Vietnam.
But -- for them this is more than just name in the history books.
It's important we know the last.
Of a gifted ones left that this memorial.
It was towards the end of the day and most of the tourists and visitors have departed.
And there was.
A football moment.
Why -- White Stripes bitterest man.
And with them was a handwritten note.
It was from a young -- still high school.
Reminded us was more than two decades after Vietnam that high school student.
Was born years after the war guardian -- But -- -- handwritten note he captured the reverence.
The bonds between generations to bring us here today.
The letter began.
-- Vietnam veterans.
-- -- things for me.
That I think you should head.
He explained there was -- -- but -- midget football.
And his wrist band from -- senior year.
So today I want to close with the word zero.
In these two pieces of equipment I was allowed to make mistakes.
-- And mature as a person.
However that was a my battlefield.
Didn't get the chance to do that on your battlefield.
Some -- you were forced to grow too fast.
All of you -- too soon.
We do -- many things in combo.
We both have -- Heart and determination.
I'm just sorry you guys have learned those qualities too fast.
That is why I'm giving.
You what I grew up -- You are true heroes.
And you'll never be forgotten.
From high school kid.
Born decades after.
The end of the war.
And that captures the spirit that this entire country.
Families of the Vietnam War.
An old wounds of war are slowly -- You know that better than most.
But today we take another step.
The task of telling your story continues.
The work of perfecting our union goes all.
And decades from now.
I hope another young America will visit this place.
And reach out.
And touch -- name.
And shall learn the story of service members people -- never met.
Who fought a war she never -- And in that moment of understanding.
And -- -- Your legacy willing to.
-- you were all true heroes.
-- will all.
May god bless you may god bless your families.
May god bless our men and women in uniform.
And may god bless these United States of America.