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What America Owes Its Veterans

A Better System of Care and Support

Flags set out as part of the Aurora Healing Fields during Veterans Day Weekend in Aurora, Illinois, November 2013. Jeff Haynes / REUTERS

Each year, the U.S. military recruits some 175,000 young Americans. At the heart of its pitch is a sacred promise to take care of those who serve—what President Abraham Lincoln described in his second inaugural address as the national duty “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Today, this promise is enshrined in the ethics of each service: members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard pledge to never leave a fallen comrade behind. After their service, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works to fulfill this same promise on behalf of a grateful nation, enabled by a budget larger than those of the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the entire U.S. intelligence community combined.

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