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With somber ceremonies and festive parades, Americans pay tribute today to veterans. At Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama saluted one of the oldest living veterans of World War II. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, the president also promised continued support for a new generation of veterans.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The Veterans Day service at Arlington managed to be both somber and celebratory. Somber when President Obama laid the traditional wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and festive when he celebrated one of the oldest survivors of what's been called America's greatest generation. Richard Overton served at Pearl Harbor, on Okinawa and Iwo Jima, where he says escaped only by the grace of God. After World War II ended, Overton returned home to Texas. And at age 107, Obama says Overton is still living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, Richard still lives in the house that he built all those years ago, rakes his own lawn. And every Sunday, he hops in his 1971 Ford truck and drives one of the nice ladies in his neighborhood to church.
HORSLEY: Obama says, at first, Overton, who is African-American, didn't get the respect back home that his service on the battlefield deserved. After every war, the president said, there's a risk that Americans will lose sight of the sacrifices veterans made. He promised that won't happen with those who served in the recently ended war in Iraq or Afghanistan, where America's combat role is due to end next year.
OBAMA: Even though this time of war is coming to a close, our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun.
HORSLEY: Obama says the government will continue to invest in caring for veterans, including educational benefits through the GI Bill and improved mental health care. The president also nodded to the first lady's effort to persuade more companies to hire veterans. Those leaving uniform in the last decade suffer an unemployment rate of 10 percent, well above the national average.
OBAMA: We're going to keep fighting to give every veterans who has fought for America the chance to pursue the American Dream, a fair shot at the jobs and opportunity you need to help us rebuild and grow here at home.
HORSLEY: Advocates complain disabled veterans still have to wait too long for the government to process their claims, though the VA's backlog is slowly shrinking. Obama says, while the U.S. already has the best military in the world, it needs to devote the same energy and passion to having the best cared-for veterans. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.