BUT SEEMS DISTANT
by Sharon Rondeau
He has not been seen in public since Saturday afternoon, when he departed the White House press pool unexpectedly.
Obama honored four U.S. Marines who died on March 1, 2003 in the Iraq war. He also stated that as “Commander-in-Chief,” sending troops into “harm’s way” is the “most difficult decision he has to make.”
He stated that America “tries to weigh the cost of every human life” and “meet our obligations to one another.”
“May God bless the United States of America,” Obama concluded.
He stood with his hand on his heart during the playing of “Taps.” A military officer then gave a benediction during which Obama bowed his head. At the conclusion, there was a pause, and the general to Obama’s left took the lead to leave.
A parade of an honor guard bearing American and other flags were carried. The live feed ended at 11:55 a.m. EDT.
An Associated Press account of the observance stated that “In a campaign aid released last week, he credits U.S. servicemen who helped in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.”
As of 12:57 p.m. EDT, there are no photos of the Memorial Day observance after the fact; only as expressed in the future tense. The new website “Twitchy” claimed that Obama was campaigning during his remarks today. Prior to his public speech, he and Michelle Obama hosted a Gold Star breakfast which was closed to the press.
Update, 1:32 p.m. EDT: The service scheduled at the Vietnam Memorial has begun. The official schedule states that Obama is scheduled to speak at 1:50 p.m. At 1:48 p.m., a short parade of military members are carrying wreaths. A woman translating the speaker’s remarks into sign language was positioned in front of the military members. At 1:50 p.m., a military band was playing.
At 1:53 p.m., the same gentleman who spoke prior to the short parade went to the podium, appeared to move a paper or two and then disappeared. Four empty chairs were in the line of the camera, but there was no sign of Obama. The band then began to play a Sousa march.
At 1:57 p.m. two men were speaking at the right of the platform containing the empty chairs and podium. Then the band began another march.
At 1:59 p.m., a speaker asked “everybody to stand who has ever served in the United States Air Force” and asked them to say “Hooahhh!” He then asked veterans of other branches to stand. The man then asked Tom Selleck “to introduce our next speaker,” who is General Martin Dempsey.
Dempsey took the podium, but there is no sign of Obama. Dempsey has stated that he follows the will of the “international community” rather than the U.S. Congress in committing U.S. military members to war.
The official White House schedule had stated that Obama, his wife, Joe Biden and his wife were to attend the Vietnam War Memorial observance.
Dempsey pledged a promise to provide for veterans upon their return from military duty “with the respect and care that they and their families have earned.”
Dempsey then stated that “We can see it in our President, in our first Lady…” referring to Dempsey’s stated commitment to military families. Dempsey then introduced Leon Panetta, who also believes that international dictates trump Congress and had spoken at Arlington this morning.
Panetta is a Vietnam veteran and gave tribute to those he personally knew who died during that conflict. “Many more came home…to a country…that failed to give them the honor they so justly deserved,” Panetta said. “For too many Vietnam veterans, the recognition of their bravery came too late,” he said. “This commemoration effort gives the country the opportunity…to try and right the wrongs of the past, to remember those who served in this war…” Panetta then said that he and “the president” had bestowed the Medal of Honor on a Vietnam veteran posthumously last week.
Panetta then said that “since 1995,” the U.S. and Vietnam are “strengthening ties” and “healing the wounds of war.” He stated that the U.S. will “leave no man or woman behind.”
He then discussed “a new greatest generation of service-members” who are returning from foreign wars “who die for our freedom.” Panetta then said that Obama and his wife have “led the fight” to urge Americans to “do more” for veterans. ‘They fought for us; the least we can do is fight for them,” he said. He then introduced a Vietnam veteran, former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, who took the podium and referred to a “special guest” who would follow him.
At 2:18 p.m. EDT, there is no sign of Obama, his wife, Joe Biden or his wife.
Hagel stated that “society should always separate the war from the warrior” in regard to Vietnam veterans. “Life is more about people than the event…We celebrate those individuals who changed our country for the better,” he said. He mentioned Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama as having shown commitment, and then introduced “the leader of our country,” Barack Obama.
The band struck up “Hail to the Chief” at 2:21 p.m.
Obama and Joe Biden walked together, followed by their wives and took the podium. The band began the national anthem and the Obamas and Bidens put their hands on their hearts.
A voice called out some military commands and there were a few moments of silence. Obama then took the podium at 2:25 p.m.
He said, “I know it’s hot…but Michelle and I could not be more honored than to be here with you.”
Obama then began a history of the conflict with Vietnam, stating that 1962 was a pivotal year in the relationship between the two countries. Obama called the Vietnam Memorial a “sacred place” where “we honor each of those names etched in stone.” He mentioned mementos of their lives such as a baby blanket or baseball bat. “Here we see a piece of our larger American story,” he said. He stated that the year 2012 is 50 years after the official beginning of the war.
Obama then quoted from the Declaration of Independence, stating that the Founders desired to create “a more perfect union.”
He stated that the Vietnam era was a “painful” one in American history. “You were sometimes blamed for the misdeed of the few,” he said, addressing Vietnam veterans.
“You came home and sometimes were denigrated…it was a national shame, a disgrace that should never have happened,” he said and vowed that “it will never happen again.” He then expressed a desire for Vietnam veterans to “set the record straight.” He stated that most Vietnam veterans volunteered to go.
“It was some of the most intense urban combat in history,” Obama said, then mentioned the soldiers “taking a hill.”
He then mentioned the battles of Iwo Jima and Normandy in World War II, then Hamburger Hill and other Vietnam battles. Obama then said that Vietnam veterans “never turned their back on America” after they returned home and entered various professions.
He mentioned a “post-911 GI bill” that is assisting military members to attend college now because of Vietnam veterans. “This is the story of our Vietnam service-members.” He then urged everyone to say “Welcome home!” to returning service members. “Thank you; we appreciate you. Welcome home!” he said.
Obama stated that there is something everyone can do for veterans and that “we will have their backs.” He stressed that “our solemn obligation” is to “never use patriotism as a political sword.”
Shortly after Obama took office, the regime had declared that “returning veterans” were identified as possible “right-wing extremists,” along with those opposing gay marriage and abortion following the “historical election of the first African American president.”
He said that every veteran should “have a home in America” and denounced hopelessness among veterans and resolved to find the remaining 1,000+ Vietnam veterans missing in action. He introduced a 93-year-old mother of a Vietnam MIA and applauded for her.
He then talked about wounds healing and that “because of Vietnam and our veterans…we honor our military more…we take care of our veterans better. Because of you, America is stronger than before.”
Obama recounted the story of a high school student born after the Vietnam War had ended who visited the Vietnam Memorial. He then shook hands with Tom Selleck and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief, after which Michelle took the handkerchief, wiped her face and gave the handkerchief back to her husband.
Selleck said that ten new names have been added to the memorial wall since last year. As the names were called out, the Obamas and other members of the audience applauded. “The wall now bears the names of 58,282…” a voice said.
Obama and Michelle then went to greet guests as the voice narrated introduced the cabinet members, General Martin Dempsey, and other military commanders, who would be hosting relatives of the fallen. A bagpiper then played “Amazing Grace” at 2:56 p.m.
Barack Obama briefly put his arm around the special guest he and his wife were hosting and faced the memorial wall. The military member saluted and a bugler played “Taps.” Both the Obama’s embraced their guest again. Michelle Obama’s embrace was brief, while Barack Obama continued to keep his arm around the woman as a men’s chorus sang and a helicopter flew overhead.
Obama then took the woman’s hand and walked over to greet Panetta and others. The band began to play “This is My Country.” As Obama continued to greet people, a voice said, “Please be seated.”
A military band and chorus then performed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Obama and his wife then held hands and went to greet members of the assembly, including Tom Selleck.
The live feed ended at 3:05 p.m. EDT.
A photo of Obama from the morning Arlington observance has been released.