Obama honours troops on Memorial Day

2012-05-28 20:25
Washington – President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both paid respective tributes to soldiers on Memorial Day, a federal holiday honouring American soldiers.

Obama honoured the nation's fallen warriors by attending a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and honouring those who died during the Vietnam War.

The president lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington before marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney was scheduled to appear in San Diego, home to a large number of military personnel and veterans.

Publicising efforts

In an election year, Obama has publicised his work to bring US combat troops home from Iraq and wind down the conflict in Afghanistan. Before military audiences and in a campaign ad released last week, he credits US servicemen who helped in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago.

With so many troops returning home, Obama says the US needs to return the favour.

"We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "By making sure that they get the health care and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect."

Veterans could play a significant role in the 2012 election. Exit polls in 2008 showed that Obama was supported by about 44% of voters who said they served in the military, while 54%  voted for Republican John McCain, a former Navy pilot who was a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War.

A poll released on Monday by Gallup found that 58% of veterans support Romney and 34% back Obama. The results were based on a sample of 3 327 veterans who are registered voters and had a margin of error of 2% points.

Job prospects

Romney was scheduled to appear with McCain in San Diego on Monday. Romney has made the case that too many veterans are returning home to poor job prospects, casting blame on Obama's economic policies.

A Bureau of Labour Statistics report in March found that 12.1%  of US Armed Forces veterans who served on active duty after September 2001 were unemployed in 2011. The unemployment rate for all veterans was 8.3%.

Several closely watched states in the November election have large numbers of military voters. Florida, home to several military installations, has more than 1.6 million veterans, according to the Veterans Administration.

Pennsylvania has nearly 1 million veterans, while Virginia and North Carolina each have about 800 000 veterans.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  mitt romney  |  us  |  us elections 2012

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