President Joe Biden participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and delivered remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater at the Arlington National Cemetery for the national Veterans Day observance on Thursday.
“Being President of the United States, you are afforded many opportunities to try to express your love, commitment and admiration for the American people,” Biden began his remarks. “And I must say to you that the single greatest honor I have been afforded as president is to stand before so many of you, those Medal of Honor winners out there and talk about Veterans Day.”
Biden recognized former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Donald Blinken, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, who is the father of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and whose birthday coincides with Veterans Day.
“Happy Birthday,” Biden said. “Thank you for your service to our country.”
During his speech, Biden also recognized Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Brian Thacker.
“During the Vietnam War, then-First Lieutenant Thacker put the safety of his fellow troops above his own, providing cover fire against an attacking enemy, and even calling in artillery fire on his own position so our forces had a better chance to withdraw,” Biden said. “Wounded, unable to leave the area, he evaded capture for eight days until finally … friendly forces retook the position. Yours is a remarkable story; it will never be forgotten.”
Biden went on to honor three recently deceased veterans.
“General Colin Powell, a child of immigrants, who grew up to be the joint — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State,” Biden said. “A man who was a friend but who earned the universal respect of the Americans and people for his leadership in uniform and out.”
“General Ray Odierno, who I met multiple times in Iraq, and who did so much to help get us to where we are today and who always put the troops and its veterans first,” Biden continued. “It was an honor to have my son, Major [Beau] Biden, serve under his command at the time.”
“And my friend and colleague — who was mentioned already — the United States Senator, Max Cleland, who, as a triple amputee, knew the cost of war as well as anyone could ever know it and went on to champion the dignity and care of America’s wounded veterans throughout his life,” Biden added. “We lost all three of these incredible veterans in the last several weeks, and our hearts go out to their families.”
Biden said the stories of the veterans like the ones he recognized “inspire generation after generation of Americans to step forward to defend our nation.”
Biden went on to say, “Each of our veterans is a link in a proud chain of patriots that has stood in the defense of our country from Bunker Hill to Belleau Woods, Gettysburg to Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir to the Kunar Valley. Each — each understood the price of freedom, and each shouldered that burden on our behalf.”
During his speech, Biden also recognized his late son Beau Biden, who served in the Army and the Delaware National Guard. The president particularly recalled his son’s time spent in Kosovo.
“Jill and I learned what it meant to pray every day for the safe return of someone you love,” Biden said. “So many of you have done that. Our grandkids learned what it meant to have their dad overseas in a warzone instead of back at home, for a year, tucking them into bed and reading that story every night. Thousands of Americans — tens of thousands have had that experience.”
Biden concluded his speech stating, “We must never forget that it is the mighty arm of the American warrior — never bending, never breaking, never yielding — generation after generation that secured for us the blessings of a nation that still stands today as the beacon of liberty, democracy, and justice around the world.”
“May God bless you all. God bless all American veterans and those who proudly earned that title. And may God protect our troops.”