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Remarks on Signing Veterans Benefits Legislation

October 24, 1972

Ladies and gentlemen:

Won't all of you be seated, at least those who have places to sit?

We are gathered here today for the purpose of signing two veterans benefit bills. These bills deal with Vietnam veterans primarily--one, of course, exclusively with Vietnam veterans because it provides for an increase in the amounts for educational benefits for Vietnam veterans.

I was looking over some of the statistics and found that in 1969 there were only 900,000 Vietnam veterans who had taken advantage of the educational opportunities of the GI bill as it applied to Vietnam veterans. Now there are 2 million. We hope there will be more, because this is an opportunity that those who were veterans of World War II and Korea found was enormously important to the young men and the young women in our armed services.

The increase in benefits is one that is due. It is one that will allow any veteran who desires to take training or education--it allows him to take that training and education, not with affluence, particularly, because with the way costs are, I know that you are still going to have to watch your budgets pretty closely, but it will allow you to get that education and that training so essential to get the jobs that you will later want.

The other bill deals with VA hospitals, and will provide for better care for our veterans and their dependents who may use those hospital facilities in the future.

In signing these two bills, I want to say just a word, too, to the representatives of the veterans organizations who are here and to the Vietnam veterans who surround me on either side. Incidentally, two of the Vietnam veterans are women, the rest, of course, are men--which is an indication of how both women and men have played a part in this very long and very difficult struggle for the United States.

I have referred to education. I also want to refer to jobs. As you know, we have had an all-out program in which we have had splendid cooperation from the Government agencies, from private enterprise, and from the media in working on jobs for veterans.

I am glad to report that we have made very great progress in that respect. We are not satisfied. We want to make more. We don't want to provide just an education, training, and whatever you may do in the way of school, and then find that once you have had the training and the schooling, there is no job.

I can assure you that we are going to continue to be dedicated to the proposition that our economy grows so that there is a job for every veteran who takes the training, who wants a job.

As I pointed out in my Veterans Day remarks, a radio talk, I want to emphasize again here today that I do not consider that employers are simply employing veterans as a matter of patriotism. They do have an obligation in that respect, every American has that, to see that our veterans have that chance when they come back after what they have given to their country; but as I pointed out, a veteran has some special qualities that make him particularly qualified for a job.

It is good business to hire veterans, and particularly those who have taken the advantage of education. I trust that when you finish your education that those jobs will be there. We want them to be there. We are going to work toward that end.

Another point that I want to make is that in addition to education, in addition to jobs, that one of the things that every American can do, one of the things that all of us can be dedicated to, has nothing to do with material benefits. It has to do with what I would call idealistic or spiritual qualities. It is very simply this: This has been a long war. It is a difficult one. It is very controversial. People in the United States have disagreed about it, whether we should have gotten in, how it is being conducted, and what we should now do.

But there is one thing I am sure of. The millions of Americans--and we want to remember that there are 6 million Vietnam-era veterans of which over 2½ million have served in Vietnam--the millions who have chosen to serve our country should be honored for their service.

I think that it is time for us to think, not just on Veterans Day, but on every day of the year, that this country owes a debt of gratitude to 29 million living American veterans who fought for this country in World War I, in World War II, in Korea and Vietnam, not for glory, not for conquest, but fought for the survival of freedom and fought against aggression. Of this we can all be proud, and we can give them the honor they are due.

The other point that I wish to make, in conclusion, is that in honoring our veterans today and particularly our Vietnam veterans, that we want you to know that the best way we can repay you for what you have given to your country-we have taken time out of your lives, and some of you have paid a very high price, I see several in wheelchairs here--the best way we can honor you, the best way we can honor your comrades, many of whom have not returned, is to build a lasting peace in the world. We are all dedicated to that, Republicans, Democrats, without regard to party.

We have made great progress in that direction, particularly in the last year as we have moved, as you know, in new initiatives toward those who might have been potential enemies of the United States.

No one can be sure what will happen in the future. But I want to make this pledge to you. You can be sure that every hour that I can possibly devote to this cause will be devoted to it because I feel a deep sense of personal gratitude to the men and women that have served this country, to those that have sacrificed so much.

I can no longer serve. I think I am physically fit, but they say I am too old. But I can serve along with the Members of the House and Senate that are here, Democrats and Republicans, in another way, and that is to work unceasingly toward the goal that we have not had in this century in America: a generation without war for all Americans, a world at peace. This is our goal. This is what you have fought for, and we trust that we will be able to achieve that goal for which you have sacrificed so much.

Thank you.

I shall now sign the bills. As you will note, I am using the traditional Presidential signing pen. When we sign bills we give souvenir pens to the Members of the House and Senate, of which there are several present here today, who have been supporting this legislation. We also have extra pens for all of those attending the ceremony. I trust that you can endorse the first check with that increased benefit with it!

Note: The President spoke at 12:41 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. He spoke without referring to notes.

As enacted, the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1972 (H.R. 12828) is Public Law 92-540 (86 Stat. 1074), and the Veterans' Administration Medical School Assistance and Health Manpower Training Act of 1972 (H.J. Res. 748) is Public Law 92-541 (86 Stat. 1100).

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing Veterans Benefits Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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