WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday honored those who have served in the United States military, calling service members the “very spine of America.”
“Our veterans represent the best of America,” the president said during a speech on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery. “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.”
Biden’s remarks came hours after the White House announced new actions that allow veterans to make claims on certain lung and respiratory effects they may experience due to exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards.
Biden highlighted the new efforts during his speech Thursday. He said his administration is expanding presumptive conditions for toxic exposure, including those who were exposed to Agent Orange.
The president also noted some service members endure physical wounds, but many also suffer from “unseen psychological wounds of war.”
The president also honored several veterans who died in recent weeks, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Georgia Secretary of State Max Cleland and former Army chief of staff Ray Odierno, as well as honoring his late son, Beau.
Beau Biden, who served in the Iraq war, died from cancer in 2015.
“I learned what it meant to pray every day for the safe return of someone you love,” he said. “So many of you have done that.”
Before closing his remarks, the president also honored the 100 year anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Veterans are the soul of America,” Biden said. “America’s soul. It’s why our veterans have always fought, always been willing to put themselves on the line.”
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_