Veterans Day was celebrated nationally on Friday with the Biden administration touting passage of one of the largest health care bills ever for veterans exposed to toxic environments and companies and political leaders sharing their views on the nature of service.
"On Veterans Day, we come together as a nation to express our profound gratitude for all you have done and continue to do," Vice President Kamala Harris said at a ceremony Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. "American service members have sworn an oath, not to a person or to a party, but to the Constitution to defend liberty, equality and justice, to preserve and protect our democracy."
President Joe Biden and other Democrats highlighted the delayed but ultimately successful passage of the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act, which expanded health care coverage to post-9/11 veterans exposed to burn pits used in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the White House's annual Veterans Day proclamation, Biden called it "the most significant expansion of benefits and services for our veterans in more than 30 years."
That landmark effort is expected to cost more than $278 billion over the next decade and made it across the finish line after years of grueling advocacy from veteran groups and a constant back and forth among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, with opposition largely coming from Republicans.
"Veterans Day is something more, a call to action for each of us, to serve vets as much as they've served each of us," Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said Friday. "As President Biden said, veterans are the very backbone of this country."
Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., also put out a tweet Friday saying "thank you for our freedom," a reference to the nonbinding legislation he proposed in October advocating to replace the phrase "thank you for your service." The idea was quickly mocked online by veterans.
This Veterans Day comes near the end of the last year troops will be awarded the National Defense Service Medal for having served during wartime. The medal will no longer be given after Dec. 31, serving as an official mark from the Pentagon that the war on terror is over. Nonetheless, service members are still engaged in counterterror operations across the globe.
Leaders abroad also extended their thanks.
"For almost 250 years, the men and women of the United States armed forces have prevailed against tyranny," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday. "Your example inspires Ukrainians today to fight back against Russian aggression."
Dozens of chain restaurants across the U.S. are expressing their appreciation to Americans who volunteered to serve in a manner that has become an annual tradition: free food and discounts.
Military.com published an extensive list of all the discounts and freebies here.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.