With the U.S. facing increasing involvement in two wars, President Joe Biden addressed current and former servicemembers at Veterans Day ceremonies Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Although Biden did not explicitly mention the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, his speech focused on American forces rising to the occasion to defeat darkness and evil.
“Whenever and wherever the forces of darkness have sought to extinguish the light of liberty, American veterans have been holding the lantern as high as they can for all of us,” he said, speaking at the Memorial Amphitheater after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Denis McDonough and top military officials.
“Our veterans are the steel spine of this nation, and their families, like so many of you, are the courageous heart,” Biden said.
Although there are no American boots on the ground fighting in the conflicts in Ukraine or Gaza, the U.S. is a major provider of military aid and security assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia, and to Israel in its war with Hamas.
Biden’s speech highlighted the PACT Act, which was signed into law last year. The legislation aimed to expand healthcare access for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals and their families.
“Too many of our nation’s warriors have served, only to return home to suffer from permanent effects of this poisonous smoke,” Biden said, adding that all veterans who had been exposed to toxins while serving in any conflict included in the PACT Act would become eligible to enroll in VA healthcare starting in March 2024.
The Biden-Harris campaign also aired a TV ad focused on the legislation, timed to Veterans Day.
Biden’s son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer after serving in Iraq, where he was exposed to burn pits.
“On this day, I can still see my son, Attorney General of Delaware, standing ramrod straight as I pinned his bars on him the day he joined the Army and National Guard in Delaware. I can still feel the overwhelming pride of Major Beau Biden receiving the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and the Delaware Conspicuous Service Cross,” he said. “We miss him.”
“Today I see that light of liberty. We live by it, just like our forebears. So all of us together, to ask ourselves, what can we do, what must we do to keep that light burning?” Biden said, concluding his remarks.