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Obama Urges U.S. Employers to Hire Veterans

November 11, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
President Obama declared that the "tide of war is receding" at a ceremony honoring the nation's veterans on Friday, as the military prepares to leave Iraq and begin winding down combat operations in Afghanistan. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JIM LEHRER: The nation honored its veterans today, as two wars wind down and returning troops face new challenges.

Judy Woodruff has our report.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There were all the traditional notes of respect and remembrance on this Veterans Day, but this time overlaid with hopes of homecomings.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We can stand here today and say with confidence the tide of war is receding.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama spoke at Arlington National Cemetery after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

BARACK OBAMA: In just a few weeks, the long war in Iraq will finally come to an end.

(APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA: Our transition in Afghanistan is moving forward. And my fellow Americans, our troops are coming home.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, after 10 years in Iraq, all American armed forces are due to leave that country by the end of the year. And 30,000 troops are expected home from Afghanistan by next summer, with the remainder scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.

But as the commander in chief also cautioned his audience today, with the homecomings will come new challenges for new veterans: a shortage of jobs.

BARACK OBAMA: At a time when America needs all hands on deck, they have the skills and strength to help lead the way. Our government needs their patriotism and sense of duty. Our economy needs their tremendous talents and specialized skills.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Indeed, the economic obstacles facing many veterans may underscore a sense that their sacrifice has not been shared by most of the country.

According to U.S. census figures, fewer than 1 percent of all Americans are now serving in uniform, active-duty, National Guard or reserves. And only 7 percent are veterans. That’s not quite 23 million Americans, out of a population of over 310 million.

Military families were also angered this week at revelations that remains of the fallen were mishandled, and even lost, at the Dover Air Force Base Mortuary in Delaware. A yearlong Air Force investigation revealed evidence of gross mismanagement in 2009 and 2010. Three senior officials at Dover were disciplined, but not fired. The whistle-blowers who revealed the problems said today they believe the situation has now been put right.

Meanwhile, this was also a day for honoring the troops, past and present, in Europe. Bagpipers in Ypres, Belgium, marched in a ceremony marking Armistice Day, the 93rd anniversary of the end of the First World War. Ypres witnessed some of the worst fighting in the war that left more than 8.5 million troops killed.

In Paris, the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that lies beneath the Arc de Triomphe. Sarkozy announced that, from now on, Nov. 11 will also be a day for his countrymen to honor all French soldiers who’ve died in uniform, in addition to those who lost their lives during World War I.