Obama highlights veterans' struggle, sacrifice in State of Union speech

Veterans who had hoped President Obama would support restoring cuts to military retiree pensions during his State of the Union address were disappointed, but the president instead spoke of the sacrifice and struggle of vets returning home after war.

The president highlighted the story of Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger wwhom he had met with before he was wounded by a roadside bomb on his tenth deployment to Afghanistan.

“For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit,” he said.

“My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy,” the president said. “But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.”  

The president pledged to help veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to transition back to civilian life after war, adding that so far, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden's Joining Forces initiative had encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses so far. 

“We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home,” he said. “And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.”

“We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need,” he added.  

Advocates from one prominent veterans group welcomed the president's remarks on service members, but said they were disappointed he did not voice support for reversing cuts made to military retiree pensions. 

"Tonight, the Commander-in-Chief reminded our nation of its commitment to the men and women in uniform, like Cory, who have sacrificed so much. 2014 is a critical year. As the war in Afghanistan winds down, we must ensure that our country is ready to support veterans when they return home," said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. 

"Unfortunately, on the critical issue of military retirement benefits, the president was silent. Veterans don't want any more excuses and won't take no for an answer. It's time to restore the retirement cuts," he said in a statement. 

This post was first published at 9:57 p.m. and was updated at 1:00 a.m.