Remarks by Vice President Harris at the National Veterans Day Observance Ceremony
By: Vice President Harris Office
Arlington National Cemetery
11:51 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Good morning. To Secretary Denis McDonough, I thank you for the work that you have been doing so tirelessly. It is noble and important work.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Secretary Lloyd Austin, and members of our Cabinet, General Mark Milley and service chiefs, leaders and members of veteran service organizations, and all of the distinguished guests: Good morning, and thank you.
And in particular to our veterans, service members, families, caregivers, and survivors, it is a profound privilege to thank and honor you today and every day.
So we gather to pay homage to all those who have served our nation in uniform at home and overseas, in times of war and in times of peace. Generations of veterans defended our country and our most sacred values.
From the fields of Yorktown to the trenches of the Marne, from the beaches of Normandy to the banks of the Chosin Reservoir and the streets of Saigon, from Baghdad to Fallujah to Kandahar, you stood as one to protect our democracy and our freedom.
And even when you returned home and took off your uniform, you continued to serve and to lead in communities across our country.
Veterans, after all, are nurses and firefighters, Little League coaches and small-business owners, faith leaders and elected officials, mentors and teachers.
Every day, through your life’s work and your example, you make America stronger. (Applause.)
And on Veterans Day, we come together as a nation, then, to express our profound gratitude for all you have done and for all you continue to do.
Here on hallowed ground, we also remember those who gave their lives for our nation. We remember our service members who have not yet returned and their families. And we reaffirm our commitment to bring home all those missing in action.
Veterans represent the best of America: unwavering courage, unmatched talent, and unshakable devotion.
You come from every corner of our country. And out of many, you become one — the greatest fighting force in the world. (Applause.)
As Vice President — at the DMZ in Korea, aboard ships
in the Indo-Pacific, at SOCOM and CENTCOM in Florida, and on NATO’s eastern flank — I have seen firsthand how America’s armed forces protect the highest ideals of our nation around the world.
Since 1789, American service members have sworn an oath not to a person, not to a party, but to the Constitution of the United States to support and defend the principles of liberty, equality, and justice; to preserve and protect our democracy.
Veterans, you’re the one who answered the call. And in so doing, you left, often, the people you love and the place you call home. You missed birthdays, holidays, and graduations. Some of you first met your newborn baby on a video chat. You risked everything and you gave up so much to safeguard the lives and the liberty of people who you may never meet.
To be a veteran is to have truly known the true cost of freedom and to have borne it for all of us.
That is a debt that must always be remembered. And I believe it is a debt we must all work to repay. (Applause.)
Back when I was attorney general of California and then as a United States senator, we fought to protect the health and wellbeing of our veterans and service members. And as Vice President, I am proud to serve alongside one of the greatest [sic] — greatest — greatest champions of our nation’s warriors, our President, Joe Biden. (Applause.)
President Biden and I believe that, as Americans, we have a sacred obligation to take care of our veterans and our military families.
Fulfilling that obligation means making sure veterans can access the support and the resources they need to thrive. For example, it has meant connecting thousands of veterans with job training to help them leverage the skills and experience they gained while serving, to build a new career and to strengthen America’s workforce.
Fulfilling that obligation also means taking on veteran homelessness. This year alone, we have placed 31,000 veterans in permanent housing, and we are on track to house thousands more by year end. (Applause.)
Taking care of our veterans also means taking care of those who love them, because while our veterans wore the uniform, they were not the only ones who served. And no one understands that better than Dr. Jill Biden.
Through her leadership of Joining Forces, Dr. Biden fights for military families, caregivers, and survivors. And, Dr. Biden, our nation applauds your extraordinary work. (Applause.)
And taking care of our veterans means making sure that they receive the benefits they have rightfully earned.
Since we took office, we have worked to reduce the VA claims backlog by upgrading technology, hiring more claims processors, and streamlining evaluations. And as a result, this year, and under the leadership of the Secretary, we processed more VA claims than ever before in history. (Applause.)
And we also came together, Democrats and Republicans, to support millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances while working and living near burn pits and other dangerous environments.
The PACT Act, as has been mentioned, is the most significant expansion of healthcare and benefits for veterans and their survivors in three decades. And it was passed because of the leadership of our President and because of the leadership of so many of you. And we are indebted to you for that hard work and success. (Applause.)
So, a few months ago, I received a letter from Lieutenant Travis Akers. So, Lieutenant Akers wrote about a friend and a fellow sailor, Lieutenant Chris Reed.
Lieutenant Reed served our nation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he worked as a Navy EOD officer near a burn pit. Tragically, Lieutenant Reed passed away in 2018 from leukemia. He is buried here in Arlington, Section 60, Plot 11854.
Lieutenant Akers fought for the PACT Act in his friend’s memory. He advocated. He testified. And thanks to him and so many veterans like him, our nation is one step closer to living up to our highest ideals.
So all of that to say America is a promise — a promise of security, opportunity, and freedom — not for some, but for all.
On Veterans Day, we celebrate the generations of Americans who fought to make that promise real. And we recognize, to truly honor our veterans, we must come together as a nation to defend that promise too.
So, on that point, I will conclude by sharing the words of Private First Class Abe Lurie, one of the many veterans joining us today. (Applause.) There you are.
So, Abe served our nation in World War Two. He was a member of the 58th QM Sales Company of the United States Army.
From 1943 to 1946, Abe traveled across England, France, and Belgium, going from camp to camp to outfit the men and women fighting to free Europe and the world.
In his travels, Abe met thousands of Americans. They came from towns and cities he had never heard of. And yet, as he tells it, even if they only crossed paths for a moment, Abe felt a connection with each.
And he said — and I’m quoting you, Abe — he said, “In the service, we were one people.” One people. (Applause.)
E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
And that is the story of our armed forces. And it is the story of our nation.
That is who we are. That is who we must be.
One nation united for liberty, united for equality, united for democracy.
One nation united to preserve and strengthen the freedoms our veterans gave so much to defend.
May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 12:06 P.M. EST