Obama Pledges Support for Troops, Veterans
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2009 - America's men and women in uniform have done their duty and fulfilled every responsibility that's been asked of them, President Barack Obama said today.
"And now," he said, "a grateful nation must fulfill ours."
Obama offered high praise for the troops, calling them the heart and soul of the world's best military during a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars' annual convention in Phoenix.
"It's not the powerful weapons that make our military the strongest in the world. It's not the sophisticated systems that make us the most advanced," he told the veterans. "No, the true strength of our military lies in the spirit and skill of our men and women in uniform."
Obama said he recognizes his responsibility to "America's most precious resource" and vowed to be deliberate in how he commits them.
"I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary," he said. "When I do, it will be based on good intelligence and guided by a sound strategy. And I will give you a clear mission, defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done."
Obama promised to ensure troops have the resources, equipment and strategies they need to succeed in the current conflicts as well as future ones. "We need to keep our military the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped fighting force in the world," he said.
The president outlined some of the initiatives under way to support this goal:
-- Growing the Army and Marine Corps, and halting reductions in the Navy and Air Force to increase time between deployments, reduce stress on the force and bring an end to the Army's stop-loss, an involuntary extension program;
-- Providing more assets to support current operations: helicopters and crews; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; special operations forces; and armored vehicles and protective gear;
-- Conducting a top-to-bottom review of military priorities and posture to develop a new blueprint for the 21st century military the United States will need;
-- Balancing military capabilities to face unconventional as well as conventional threats;
-- Modernizing the force by investing in new skills and specialties as well as new technologies; and
-- Reforming the way the Pentagon does business to reduce waste and get the most capability out of every defense dollar.
Obama also recognized the country's responsibility to take care of its men and women in uniform, as well as veterans.
He noted that his fiscal 2010 budget funds "increasing military pay, building better family housing and funding more childcare and counseling to help families cope with the stresses of war."
In addition, big increases will be devoted to providing wounded warriors treatment centers, case managers and better medical care, he said. These resources, he told the veterans, will ensure wounded warriors get the care they need so they "can recover and return to where they want to be: with their units."
Obama also noted the billions of dollars in the new budget that will go toward treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries that have become the defining wounds of today's wars.
Increased funding will provide more treatment and mental-health screening to reach troops on the front lines, and more mobile and rural clinics to reach veterans who have returned home, he said.
"We are not going to abandon these American heroes," Obama said. "We will do right by them."
America's commitment to its troops will continue when they become veterans, he said, noting significant funding increases for Department of Veterans Affairs programs.
"Whether you left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned," the president promised the veterans.
Even during tough economic times, Obama said the country can't shirk from its responsibilities to servicemembers and veterans.
"Let me be clear," he said. "America's commitments to its veterans are not just lines in a budget.
"They are bonds that are sacred – a sacred trust that we are honor-bound to uphold."
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