NATIONAL NEWS

Biden salutes troops as ‘spine of America’ on Veterans Day

Nov 11, 2021, 11:22 AM | Updated: 11:23 am
President Joe Biden pauses after placing a wreath during a centennial ceremony for the Tomb of the ...
President Joe Biden pauses after placing a wreath during a centennial ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Arlington National Cemetery, on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden saluted the nation’s military veterans as “the spine of America” Thursday as he marked his first Veterans Day as president in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

“There’s nothing low risk or low cost about war for the women and men who fight it,” said Biden, whose administration earlier in the day, announced a federal effort to better understand, identify and treat medical conditions suffered by troops deployed to toxic environments.

That expanded effort centers on lung problems suffered by troops who breathe in toxins and the potential connection between rare cancers and time spent overseas breathing poor air, according to the White House. Federal officials plan to start by examining lung and breathing problems but say they will expand the effort as science identifies potential new connections.

Biden’s son, Beau, served in Iraq, and the president has suggested a potential link between Beau’s death from an aggressive brain cancer and his exposure to toxins in the air, particularly around massive pits where the military disposes of waste by burning. There’s no scientific evidence to establish that link.

This year’s Veterans Day commemoration comes just two months after Biden ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a chaotic ending to America’s longest war where 2,461 American service members were killed over the nearly 20-year conflict.

In his remarks at Arlington, Biden praised generations who have served, declaring they’ve “endured and survived challenges most Americans will never know.”

He also paused to remember three high-profile veterans who recently died, Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of State; Gen. Ray Odierno, an Army chief of staff and top general in Iraq, and Sen. Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat who lost three limbs while serving in Vietnam.

“You are the very spine of America,” Biden said of the nation’s veterans.

The new federal effort on toxic exposure is also designed to make it easier for veterans to make claims based on their symptoms, to collect more data from troops who are suffering and to give veterans more time to make medical claims after symptoms such as asthma and sinus problems develop.

“We’re discovering there is a whole host of lung conditions related to deployment,” said Dr. Richard Meehan, an immunologist and rheumatologist. The retired U.S. Naval Reserve officer, who served in the Mideast during the 1990s and again in 2008, is co-director of the Denver-based National Jewish Health Center of Excellence on Deployment-Related Lung Disease.

Beau Biden’s death was a defining moment for Joe Biden, one he said affected his decision to sit out the 2016 presidential race. The younger Biden deployed from October 2008 until September 2009 as a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard. In 2013, he was diagnosed with a tumor, and he died two years later at age 46.

Meehan, who along with his colleagues is investigating the role of inhalation exposures among military personnel who were deployed to Southwest Asia, said it isn’t only burn pits that are the issue — the air quality in some countries is so poor that troops would not be allowed to work there under civilian federal workplace guidelines. The center receives funding from the Department of Defense, along with private donors.

Meehan has worried that troops who came back with breathing problems are being compared with other Americans to determine whether there is a higher rate of lung illness. But those deployed with the U.S. military are in peak physical condition, stronger and more fit than average Americans. To come back unable to make it up stairs without getting winded or unable to lift anything without breathing heavily is highly unusual.

“When you compare them to another group, you have to compare them to another healthy, fit group,” Meehan said. “That’s one of the problems overlooked in surveys that have shown no higher incidence of cancer.”

The new rules will allow veterans to make claims within 10 years of service, and the government has changed how it determines what symptoms count and why.

The U.S. military has been aware for years of health risks associated with open-air burn pits. In 2013, federal investigators found a military camp in Afghanistan was operating a pit for more than five years, nearly four times longer than Pentagon rules allowed. The Defense Department has said burn pits should be used only as a temporary last resort when no other alternative trash disposal method is feasible, still they have persisted for years.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12:  In this photo illustration a bottle of Johnson & Johnso...
Associated Press

J&J to end sales of baby powder with talc globally next year

Johnson & Johnson is pulling baby powder containing talc worldwide next year after it did the same in the U.S. and Canada amid thousands of lawsuits claiming it caused cancer.
18 hours ago
In this still image from video, author Salman Rushdie is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for t...
JOSHUA GOODMAN Associated Press

Author Salman Rushdie stabbed on lecture stage in New York

Salman Rushdie, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" drew death threats from Iran in the 1980s, has been stabbed in the neck and abdomen by a man who rushed the stage as the author was about to give a lecture in western New York.
18 hours ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention...
LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press

Timeline: Events leading up to FBI search of Trump’s home

The FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate has already sent reverberations across the country even as new details emerge about what federal agents were looking for in the investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence.
18 hours ago
The notice filed by the Justice Department to the U.S. District Court South District of Florida inf...
MICHAEL BALSAMO, ZEKE MILLER and ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press

FBI seized ‘top secret’ documents from Trump home

Court papers show that the FBI recovered documents labeled “top secret” from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
18 hours ago
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, second from right, joined by ...
LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent

GOP backs Trump, escalates dark rhetoric after FBI search

Republicans in Congress are not only defending Donald Trump against the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home. They're also capitalizing on it politically with grave and potentially dangerous rhetoric against the nation's justice system.
18 hours ago
Anne Heche, pictured here on January 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California, is 'not expected to sur...
Sandra Gonzalez and Chloe Melas, CNN

Anne Heche’s son mourns mother: ‘We have lost a bright light’

Anne Heche's son paid tribute to his mother Friday saying the family had lost "a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend."
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Biden salutes troops as ‘spine of America’ on Veterans Day