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Obama salutes veterans on Memorial Day weekend

Defense Secretary Robert Gates attends graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy at West Point Saturday.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates attends graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy at West Point Saturday.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama saluted veterans and urged his countrymen to do the same this Memorial Day weekend, saying the nation has not always paid them proper respect.

In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama said people can honor veterans by sending a letter or care package to troops overseas, volunteering at health clinics or taking supplies to a homeless veterans center. He said it could also mean something as simple as saying "thank you" to a veteran walking by on the street.

"We have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us," Obama said. "And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve.

"That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear and all who have worn the proud uniform of our country," he said.

The president planned to attend a Memorial Day ceremony Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Obama said he was committed to giving troops the training and equipment they need and making certain the Veterans Affairs Department had the money it needed. He also noted that he had signed a bill into law that would eliminate waste in defense projects.

"That is what Memorial Day is all about," Obama said. "It is about doing all we can to repay the debt we owe to those men and women who have answered our nation's call by fighting under its flag. It is about recognizing that we, as a people, did not get here by accident or good fortune alone."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday praised cadets graduating from West Point for having the courage and patriotism to join the military in "a dangerous new century." Gates noted that the 970 members of the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2009 were preparing their West Point applications in late 2004, as U.S. forces were battling fiercely in Fallujah in Iraq.

"You showed courage, commitment and patriotism of the highest order," Gates said.

Almost all the graduates become second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. Most are expected to serve eventually in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The class includes the academy's first cadet from Afghanistan.

Associated Press

Obama salutes veterans on Memorial Day weekend 05/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 23, 2009 9:09pm]

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