President Barack Obama somberly thanked veterans for their service and acknowledged that the U.S. hasn’t always provided enough support upon their return home during a Sunday speech at the opening of Washington, D.C.’s Americans Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.
“With this memorial we commemorate, for the first time, two battles our disabled veterans have fought: The battle over there and the battle here at home,” Obama said.
The memorial, which the President says is a reminder not to “rush into war,” is the first one on the National Mall to specifically honor veterans who were injured in combat, ABC News reports. It joins the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials that exist around the Mall.
Obama’s remarks come during the same year the Veterans Affairs scandal put the conversation around veterans’ physical and mental health at the forefront.
“If you’re an American and you see a veteran, maybe with a prosthetic arm or leg, maybe burns on their face, don’t ever look away,” Obama said. “Do not turn away. You go up and you reach out and you shake their hand and you look them in the eye and say those words every veteran should hear all the time: Welcome home. Thank you. We need you more than ever. You helped us stay strong. You helped us stay free.”