By Justin Sink - 11/11/13 12:16 PM EST
President Obama said Veterans Day was a time to "honor a debt we can never repay" and pledged to fulfill "our promises to our veterans … now, tomorrow and forever."
"We are here today to pledge that we will never forget the profound sacrifices that are made in our name," the president said during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Obama said the nation's work to help veterans was "more urgent than ever" as the conflict in Afghanistan wound to a close.
"As is true after every conflict, there is a risk that the devoted service of our veterans could fade from the forefront of our minds. We might turn to other things. But part of the reason we're here today is to pledge that we will never forget the profound sacrifices that are made in our name."
Before speaking, Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Earlier Monday, he hosted veterans and their families at a breakfast at the White House.
In a nod toward the sequester cuts that have impacted government spending across-the-board, the president said that "even as we face difficult fiscal choices as a nation," the U.S. would continue to invest in its "sacred obligation" to veterans.
The president said those veterans not covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs could "secure quality, affordable health insurance" under ObamaCare, and touted the millionth student veteran pursuing an education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
"We’re going to keep fighting to give every veteran who has fought for America the chance to pursue the American Dream," Obama said.
He also acknowledged the backlog at the VA, noting that the agency had cut it by a third since March.
"We're going to keep at it so you can get the benefits that you have earned and that you need when you need them," Obama said.
Toward the end of his remarks, the president rallied a sustained ovation by recognizing Richard Overton, a 107-year-old Army veteran who served during World War II.
The president noted that when Overton, who is African-American, returned home to Texas, "his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home."
But he said that earlier this year, the Army veteran came to Washington, D.C., to pay his respects at the World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials.
"As Richard sat in a wheelchair beneath that great marble statue, he wept, and the crowd that gathered around him wept, too to see one of the oldest living veterans of World War II bear witness to a day, to the progress of a nation he thought might never come," Obama said.
"This is how we'll be judged: not just by how well we care for our troops in battle, but how we treat them when they come home, and by the America we build together," Obama added.