Nov 11, 2021
Joe Biden Honors Veterans Day 2021 Speech Transcript
President Joe Biden gave a speech honoring Veterans Day on November 11, 2021. Read the transcript of the speech here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden: (00:01)
Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
President Joe Biden: (00:26)
Folks, being president of the United States, you are afforded many opportunities to try to express your love, commitment, and admiration for the America people. 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 and veterans.
President Joe Biden: (01:12)
I want to welcome all the cabinet members and honored guests joining us today, including the father of our secretary of state who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Ambassador Donald Blinken, whose birthday is today. Happy birthday.
President Joe Biden: (01:31)
Thank you for your service to our country. And I just want to tell you, I know you’re a little younger than I am, but you know I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro at the time pitcher in the Negro Leagues, he went on to become a great pitcher in the pros, in Major League Baseball after Jackie Robinson, his name was Satchel Page. And Satchel Page on his 47th birthday pitched a win against Chicago, and all the press went in and said, “Satch, It’s amazing. 47-years-old. No one’s ever, ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about being 47?”
President Joe Biden: (02:31)
He said, “Boys, that’s not how I look at it.”
President Joe Biden: (02:33)
He said, “How do you look at it, Satch?”
President Joe Biden: (02:35)
He said, “I look at it this way. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” I’m 50-years old and the ambassador’s 47.
President Joe Biden: (02:45)
But all kidding aside, Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your service during World War II, as well as your service as an ambassador. And thank you for raising such a fine man, Tony Blinken, our secretary of state.
President Joe Biden: (03:00)
To all our veterans past and present, we thank you, we honor you, and we remember always what you’ve done for us. I’d like to recognize one of our national heroes who is here today, Medal of Honor recipient, Mr. 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 withdrawal.
President Joe Biden: (03:40)
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’ll never be forgotten.
President Joe Biden: (03:58)
I’ll also never forget the stories of American leaders and icons we’ve lost recently who shaped our nation in ways that are hard to measure. I’ve lost, like many of you, three good friends in the last month, General Colin Powell, a child of immigrants who grew up to be a joint chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of state. A man, who was a friend, but who earned the universal respect of Americans and people for his leadership in uniform and out.
President Joe Biden: (04:35)
And a guy who became good friends and many times I was in and out of Iraq as a vice president and a senator, General Ray Odierno, who went out multiple times in Iraq, and who did so much to help get us where we are today, and who always put the troops and his veterans first. It was an honor that my son Major Biden served under his command at the time.
President Joe Biden: (05:01)
And my friend and colleague who was mentioned already, 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 Americans and wounded veterans throughout his life.
President Joe Biden: (05:20)
We lost all three of these incredible veterans in the last several weeks. And our hearts go out to their families. These are stories that inspire generation after generation of Americans to step forward to defend our nation. And today we pay homage to the unrelenting bravery and dedication that distinguishes all those who’ve earned and the title of American veteran.
President Joe Biden: (05:45)
It’s an honor that not only a small percentage Americans can claim, and one that marks those who are able to claim it as brothers and sisters, it’s a badge of courage that unites across all ages, regardless of background, because to be a veteran is to have endured and survived challenges that most Americans will never know.
President Joe Biden: (06:08)
You’ve come through trials and testing, brave dangers and deprivations, faced down tragic realities of war and death. And you’ve done it for us. You’ve done it for America, to defend and serve American values, to protect our country and our constitution against all enemies, and to lay a stronger, more secure foundation on which future generations can continue to build a more perfect union.
President Joe Biden: (06:43)
Each of our veterans is a link in a proud chain of patriots that have stood in the defense of our country from Bunker Hill to Belleau Woods, Gettysburg, to Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir to [Conar 00:06:59] Valley.
President Joe Biden: (07:01)
Each, each understood the price of freedom, and each shouldered that burden on our behalf. Our veterans represent the best of America. You are the very spine of America, not just the backbone, you’re the spine of this country. And all of us, all of us owe you.
President Joe Biden: (07:23)
And so on Veterans Day, and every day we honor that great debt and recommit ourselves to keeping our sacred obligation as a nation to honor what you’ve done.
President Joe Biden: (07:40)
We have many obligations, to our children, to our elderly, to those truly in need, but I’ve gotten in trouble way back when I was a young senator for saying, “We only have one truly sacred obligation. We have many obligations, one truly sacred obligation, to properly prepare those and equip those who we send into harm’s way, and care for them and their families while they’re both deployed, and when they return home.”
President Joe Biden: (08:12)
This is a lifetime sacred commitment. It never expires. And for me, and for Jill, and for the entire Biden family it’s personal. When Beau was deployed to Iraq after spending six months in Kosovo as an assistant US attorney, trying to help set up a criminal justice system, I got a call from him one day. He said, “Dad, what are you doing Friday?”
President Joe Biden: (08:45)
And I said, “What do you need [inaudible 00:08:45]?”
President Joe Biden: (08:47)
And then said, “I’d like you to pin my bars on.”
President Joe Biden: (08:50)
I said, “What and the heck have you done?”
President Joe Biden: (08:53)
He said, “Someone’s got to finish these wars dad.”
President Joe Biden: (08:57)
True story. Jill and I learned what it meant to pray every day for the safe return of someone you love; so many of you have done that. Our grandkids learned what it meant to have their dad overseas in the war zone 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.
President Joe Biden: (09:25)
As the English poet, John Milton wrote, “They also serve to only stand wait,” all the mothers and father, sons and daughters, spouses, all those who stand alongside our veterans and their families, as caregivers, survivors, you are the solid steel spine that bears up under every burden, the courageous heart that rises every challenge. We’ve asked so much of you for so long. And our nation is grateful.
President Joe Biden: (10:08)
For two decades the lives of our service members and their families and veterans have been shaped by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Americans have served, so many are still serving today in harm’s way, and we cannot forget them.
President Joe Biden: (10:28)
The American people are forever grateful and in awe of what you’ve accomplished. But in fulfilling their mission so many veterans in families and caregivers have been through hell, some facing deployment after deployment, spending months and years away from their families, missing birthdays, anniversaries and collections.
President Joe Biden: (10:54)
I remember one of the last times I flew into Iraq, in the so-called, “Silver bullet,” I remember walking up to the cockpit, and the crew masters along when the pilots were up there and I said, “How many of you is this your first tour?” No one raised their hand, there were five people. Second tour? No one raised their hand. Third tour? Two raised their hand. Fourth tour? Two raised their hand. Fifth? One raised their hand.
President Joe Biden: (11:32)
Folks on Veterans Day we have to always remember that there’s nothing low-risk or low-cost about war for the women and men who fight it. I carry with me in my pocket every single day, I have my [inaudible 00:11:46] just to check with the Defense Department, in the back of my schedule, I have US daily troops in Afghanistan killed and wounded, US daily troops in the Iraq killed and wounded. 52,323, not roughly 53,000, every one of these individuals has a family, a unit at home. 53,323 American service men and women wounded in the conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan, 7,074 gave their life, the last full measure of devotion.
President Joe Biden: (12:34)
Untold thousands more return home, as our secretary can tell you, with unseen psychological wounds of war. The enduring grief worn by our gold star families.
President Joe Biden: (12:51)
These are the cost of war that they’ll carry and we’ll carry as a nation for decades to come. And all veterans, service members, their families, caregivers, survivors, I want you to know that our administration is going to meet the sacred obligation that we owe you. We’re going to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats together, to make sure our veterans receive the world class benefits that they’ve earned, and meet the sacred and specific care, specific needs that they each individually need.
President Joe Biden: (13:24)
That means expanding presumptive conditions for toxic exposure, particulate matter, including Agent Orange and burn pits. We’re going to keep pushing on this front to be more nimble and responsive, reviewing all the data and evidence to determine additional presumptive conditions that make sure our veterans don’t have to wait to get the care they need.
President Joe Biden: (13:49)
It also means prioritizing mental health care that’s necessary to treat invisible wounds that so many of our veterans is carry, including pursuing our newly released comprehensive public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicides.
President Joe Biden: (14:05)
I want to say clearly to all our veterans, if you’re struggling, you’re so used to never asking for anything, if you’re struggling, reach out, call Veterans Crisis Line. Having trouble thinking about things, it’s no different than if you had a wound in your arm. And it’s also making sure that the growing population of women and LGBTQ+ veterans receive appropriate services and support.
President Joe Biden: (14:45)
As we continue our efforts to defeat the pandemic and build back better, it means keeping the needs of veterans front and center. The American Rescue Plan included $17 billion to support VA’s COVID-19 response, to get vaccination and vaccine shots in arms as fast as possible.
President Joe Biden: (15:05)
And the fund programs that provide rapid retraining assistance for veterans who may have lost their jobs in the pandemic, housing assistance, debt forgiveness, and to invest in improving VA facilities and the living conditions of vulnerable veterans.
President Joe Biden: (15:22)
Through Jill’s work of Joining Forces we’re also working to support our veterans and military families, survivors, and caregivers, so they can have what they need to thrive. They deserve it.
President Joe Biden: (15:34)
A Secretary McDonough noted, this Veterans Day also marks the centennial of one of the most hallowed American monuments, the Tomb of the Unknowns. 100 years ago today, an American soldier of the first world war, as the tomb says, “Known but to God,” completed the voyage from an unidentified battlefield in France over the rough Atlantic seas, here to Arlington National Cemetery. He lay in state under the Capitol rotunda for two days on the same plinth that held the body of Lincoln as 90,000 Americans can pay respects.
President Joe Biden: (16:23)
On the final leg of his journey, he was escorted from the Capitol by the president of the United States, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, members of Congress, General Pershing, and the chiefs of staff, medal of honor recipients all walking, as the Washington Post said, “Processing without parallel to give honor due to American service men.” Not just the anonymous soul today in tomb in gleaming marble, but the generations of Americans who dared all, risked all, gave all for the cause of freedom.
President Joe Biden: (17:03)
To commemorate and the wounds, in the words of the member of Congress who proposed the legislation creating the memorial, an American warrior, quote, this is the quote, “Typifies the soul of America.” You veterans, the soul of America; America’s soul.
President Joe Biden: (17:32)
It’s why our veterans have always fought, always have been willing to put themselves on the line, that the first unknown lies now with his brethren, unnamed wars from later wars, fellow patriots who picked up the mantel of honor and made it their burden.
President Joe Biden: (17:53)
But today, 100 years later, we keep a sacred watch over their graves. Generations of elite sentinels have taken the post pledging their eternal vigilance. We lay wreaths, we renew our oath, we stand in solemn awe of such fidelity, because for us to keep faith with American veterans, we must never forget exactly what was given us; what each of them is willing put on the line for us.
President Joe Biden: (18:31)
We must never forget that it is the mighty arm of the American warrior, never bending, never breaking, never yielding, generation after generation has secured for us the blessings of a nation that still stands today as a beacon of liberty, democracy, and justice around the world.
President Joe Biden: (18:53)
God bless you all. God bless all American veterans, those who proudly earn that title. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.