ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged business owners on Friday to hire military personnel returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, as he marked Veterans Day and declared that “the tide of war is receding.”
Weaving homage to the troops between references to his foreign policy triumphs, including the May killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Obama highlighted his administration’s efforts to help veterans find work in a tough economy.
“At a time when America needs all hands on deck, they have the skills and strength to help lead the way,” Obama told a ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on a chilly but bright fall morning.
“On this Veterans Day, I ask every American: recruit our veterans. If you’re a business owner, hire them. If you’re a community leader -- a mayor, a pastor or a preacher -- call on them to join your efforts,” Obama said.
Before speaking, Obama took part in a wreath-laying ceremony and stood, head bowed and hands clasped, to mark a moment of silence. He then stepped back as Taps was played.
Obama faces the task of convincing voters that he has a plan to restore the U.S. economy and curb unemployment as he campaigns for re-election next year.
Tax breaks to encourage U.S. firms to hire veterans are one of only two parts of Democrat Obama’s $447 billion jobs package to so far gain backing from Republicans in Congress, who helped pass the measure in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
Veterans who served after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States face much higher jobless rates than the rest of the workforce, notching 12.1 percent last month versus a national average of 9.0 percent, and their ranks may grow.
The United States is reducing its troop strength in Afghanistan and will withdraw its remaining 40,000 troops in Iraq by the end of this year.
“Because of their incredible efforts, we can stand here today and say with confidence the tide of war is receding. In just a few weeks, the long war in Iraq will finally come to an end. Our transition in Afghanistan is moving forward. And my fellow Americans, our troops are coming home,” Obama said.
Writing by Alister Bull, editing by Will Dunham