Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
Remarks by Secretary Robert A. McDonald
Veterans Day Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery
November 11, 2014
Vice President Biden;
Medal of Honor Recipient, Brian Thacker;
Secretary Hagel, Secretary Pritzker, Secretary Perez, Secretary Castro, and members of your families;
Senators Hirono, King, and Cantwell; Minority Leader Pelosi;
Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Peake;
Secretary McHugh; Secretary James;
Chairman Dempsey, General Dunford, Admiral Greenert, Admiral Zukunft, and your spouses;
Ronald Hope, Disabled American Veterans—our co-host for this year’s celebration—and other representatives of our Veteran Service Organizations;
Dr. and Ms. Somers—thank you for your advocacy on behalf of Veterans, and God bless the memory of your son, Daniel;
Fellow Veterans, members of our Armed Forces, VA colleagues, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Good morning everyone! What a great day for honoring Veterans. For decades, Americans have set aside this hour of this day of this month to honor those who have served this country in uniform, in times of both peace and war.
It is fitting that Veterans Day comes so close to Thanksgiving, because Veterans Day is a day to give thanks and to ask the Almighty’s blessings on those who serve and have served the cause of peace.
It is also a day of sacred remembrance. And, it’s a day of both prayers and promises.
We pray and promise that those who have served and are still serving will never be forgotten; that returning warriors will not bear their wounds alone; that their families will receive help in facing uncertain futures; and that we, as a grateful Nation, will embrace and care for survivors of those who do not return.
This year, all of us at VA arrive at today’s ceremony after travelling along what we call our “Road to Veterans Day.” We stepped off on this journey 90 days ago, and the road was built on the foundation of both VA’s mission and our immediate objective: To better serve and care for those who have borne the battle and for their families and survivors.
We set three goals for ourselves as we began to move forward. First, rebuilding trust with Veterans and stakeholders; second, improving service delivery, focusing on Veteran outcomes; and last, setting VA on a course for long-term excellence and reform.
We want Veterans to know that they do not strive alone. The vision of our President, the leadership and support of the Congress, the concerted efforts of our Veteran Service Organizations, the good people at VA, and the American people are all required to best serve Veterans.
At VA, we are reorganizing for success in this effort—perhaps the largest restructuring in the history of the department. We call that reorganization and our customer experience solution MyVA—part of our Road to Veterans Day strategy.
It’s called MyVA because we want Veterans to view us as an organization that belongs to them, providing quality care in the ways they need and want to be served.
MyVA will entail combining functions, simplifying operations, improving processes, leveraging technology, enhancing efficiency, increasing productivity, and effectively implementing the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act—a 360-degree effort to provide Veterans with a seamless, integrated, and responsive VA, regardless of how they come to us.
All of this is to say that VA must regain and retain a laser focus on Veterans—from the 90-year-old who fought across the bullet-crossed expanse of Omaha Beach to the 19-year-old who faced a determined foe in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Our goal is simple: Provide quality, timely care and benefits, courteously, to all generations of Veterans.
Our special guest, today, fully shares President Obama’s commitment to America’s Veterans. He and his wife, a tremendous supporter of Veterans and Servicemembers in her own right, have seen a son off to war and felt the special pride of having a child who shares both the privilege and the responsibility of wartime service to our great Nation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply honored, personally and professionally, to present to you a great advocate for our Veterans—the Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.