By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2010 - Vice President Joe Biden honored servicemembers and veterans at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery today, saying 100 percent of Americans owe their gratitude to the 1 percent who serve in the all-volunteer force.
"Collectively, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, the very spine of this nation," Biden said to an audience full of servicmembers, veterans, and government leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
"As a nation, we pause today to thank more than 23 million surviving veterans who so bravely protected our freedom," he said. "You gave, and they gave... .millions of you gave service, limb, and sometimes life. In doing so, you imparted responsibility on all of us, as well, to recognize, respect and honor, and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live ours."
Biden, whose son, Beau, served in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard, noted that the U.S. military is in its longest-ever period of sustained combat from nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of two million who served in those conflicts, more than half have returned to civilian life, more than 40,000 have been wounded with 18,000 unable to return to duty and more than 5,700 were killed. More than 16,000 will need medical care for the rest of their lives, he said.
"Only 1 percent of this nation is fighting these wars," Biden said. "But 100 percent of America owes them a thank you; 100 percent of the nation can, and must, do something to acknowledge what they've done for us and continue to do this very moment for us."
Biden noted the chilly November temperatures at Arlington, and recalled being there on Memorial Day when the late May temperatures hit 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures are nothing compared to the heat World War II veterans endured in the Pacific islands, or that Vietnam veterans felt in the Mekong Delta, or Iraq veterans coped with in Fallujah when the thermometer soared to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.
And the chill in the air today is nothing like the minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit that veterans remember from Korea, or the frozen Argonne Forest in France, or the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan, he said.
Biden said he's seen firsthand how 10th Mountain Division soldiers scale Afghanistan's snowy mountains with 60 pounds on their backs to fight al Qaida.
"It absolutely blows me away to see what these kids and they're
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