U.S. President Obama defended his foreign policy, honored the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting victims and pledged to help veterans transition to civilian life.
"Around the world, some question whether the United States still had the capacity to lead. So four years ago ... I pledged to take the fight to our enemies and renew our leadership in the world," Obama said at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., Monday. "As president, that's what I've done."
Looking ahead to the challenges the country will face and the leadership that's required, "you don't just have my words," Obama said. "You have my deeds. You have my track record. You have the promises I've made and the promises that I've kept."
He noted the troop withdrawal from Iraq, the drawdown and eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and "thanks to the courage and the skill of our forces Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again and al-Qaida's on the road to defeat."
Alliances in Europe and the Asia Pacific have never been stronger, he said.
"We're leading the fight against nuclear dangers. We've applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea -- nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons," he said to applause. "We're leading on behalf of freedom, standing with people in the Middle East and North Africa as they demand their rights, protecting the Libyan people as they rid the world of Moammar Gadhafi."
America and other nations also are working for a transition "so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of [President Bashar Assad's] regime. And given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community, and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons."
Obama told the veterans about his trip to Aurora Sunday to visit with families "whose loss is hard to imagine, with the wounded, who are fighting to recover, with a community and a military base in the midst of their grief."
Four of the victims were members of the military.
"These young patriots were willing to serve in faraway lands, yet they were taken from us here at home," Obama said. "We salute their service. And as you summon the strength to carry on and keep bright their legacy, we stand with you as one united American family."
He then spoke of the promise he made to uphold "America's sacred trust with our veterans," including increasing the Veterans Administration budget, improvements to healthcare and support available to veterans and assistance to veterans seeking jobs.
"Four years ago, I said that I'd do everything I could to help our veterans realize the American dream, to enlist you in building a stronger America," he said. "After all, our veterans have the skills that America needs. So, today our economy is growing and creating jobs, but it's still too hard for too many people, folks to find work, especially our younger veterans -- our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan."
Troops leaving the military will undergo a "reverse" boot camp covering job skills, personal finances and veterans benefits under the new initiative Obama unveiled Monday before the veterans group.
Transition Goals Planning Success -- or Transition GPS -- is part of a broader effort to help reduce veterans unemployment and the often difficult re-integration into civilian life. The overhaul is the first significant overhaul in the military's transition program in more than two decades.
Senior administration officials said the new Transition GPS includes a pre-separation assessment and individual counseling for all military personnel, development of an individual transition plan and certification that the service member meets "career readiness" standards before leaving the military, Stars and Stripes reported. The program also includes efforts to provide career counseling and credentialing opportunities during a service member's military career, officials said.
The five-day Transition GPS curriculum, created by an interagency task force, includes lessons in basic budgeting tips, resume preparation, dealing with family adjustment issues, and translating/transferring military skills into a civilian environment.
Officials said troops will also be offered another two-day course in either attending college, or getting a technical or civilian-credentialed job or starting a business.
The new program won't be fully implemented across all armed forces branches until late 2013.
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