President Obama Lays Wreath, Delivers Remarks on Veterans Day

Commander-in-Chief honors U.S. soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
58:46 | 11/11/13

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Transcript for President Obama Lays Wreath, Delivers Remarks on Veterans Day
This is a special room. Local I'm -- -- -- in New York with this ABC news digital special report. Today Americans across the nation honoring service men and women in observance of veterans day. Celebrated on the eleventh of November to recognize those who have served to defend. And right now we are looking live at Arlington national cemetery in Virginia where President Obama will commemorate veterans day with the annual. Wreath laying ceremony. Let's go there now lives. Don't. -- But he. A. -- -- -- -- Yeah. And that was the US air force band performing -- musical interludes. With America the beautiful in the official party now inside the memorial at the -- For the observance of this veterans day I want to bring in ABC's -- Martinez who was standing on an economy. And -- -- obviously it's day of great symbolism at the tomb of the unknowns. The -- -- which is America's most sacred monument. To our war dead bodies these are -- bodies the remains of three. Service members from the. World War I world war two and Korean War interred there at the -- at this mausoleum the highest honor all of America's war dead. Not just those who are unknown but he specifically because. -- they are. They represent America's greatest wars over the last century bodies to be somebody there from -- representative there from the Vietnam War. They -- -- there from most fifteen years but then DNA testing actually resulted in the identification. And that individuals remains and so they're now only her three unknowns unknowns the service members -- -- and he announced. I'm every year he always seen major wreath laying there. By EU presidency during Memorial Day and of course on veterans day. Which was first -- right after -- -- where one. Being percent of parents think. President is about to make his remarks in just a short time but it is Louis take us back to their first memorial that -- she's -- veterans day. Observance. Police he called armistice. Again that because of the armistice that when and -- -- act in effect. At the end of World War I we were all familiar with -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I didn't invent that ended the war in -- Wear one in Europe in nineteen in 1918. In 1919. There was -- decision -- to hold any commemoration of that -- -- called armistice day. An armistice day was commemorated year after year and -- in the thirties and became a national holiday. And then in 1954. -- believe that president Eisenhower. Change the name of the day -- armistice day to veterans -- commemorate the service of all of America's service members. There's about 22 and former some veterans right now. Currently in the United States. A lot of them getting benefits from the veterans administration. Others -- but. This is a big day it's to commemorate. The service of America and -- of course the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan as kind of a. Turn the significance of this day and commit to our current generation and is it is David does not just -- -- in the United States correct. Yeah I just can't stand it's it's called remembrance day in Canada and in the united spinning -- -- kingdom. Remember these are allies and -- war one. And of course of the armistice being commemorated there as well this was remember the war to end all wars the great war. Which unfortunately Liz replicated just thirty years later with what -- to. So that a lot of significance and commemorating World War I. Overseas in the -- to -- countries he may have noticed some took some of our colleagues on British television. Over the last week wearing -- poppies -- you know look pills. On that became a very popular symbol of remembrance. For the sacrifices of their veterans. During their wars and as we can see. Along with. Doctor Jill Biden as well. Making their way assembling there and this morning's events including an address by the president's. Also -- for the pledge of allegiance will be recited. By the president of the congressional medal of honor society. And -- -- were waiting for the ceremony to begin is as you pointed out with Afghanistan and Iraq of even greater significance that we -- Memorial Day veterans day. As is it still grabs our attention from those conflicts that are taking place around the world. It's fresh in our memories and of course have the last twelve years the United States and in almost constant war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places as well. Since 9/11. And it just reminds us little a sacrifice of America's military and their families and commitment that they have to providing for national defense. The veterans day is is that -- to commemorate that service and so that's why against the focus focus in the remarks today. On veterans that you're going to be hearing from VA secretary Eric Shinseki. Not from Defense Secretary -- And you in the president's remarks he can -- forceful case on this service American veterans most likely honor and Iraq and Afghanistan. We're talking about two and half million Americans who have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade obviously a lot of people have been impacted. By this for the last decade and -- -- reason why. On veterans day and there's -- -- significance over the last decade and certainly has and let's now go down to assembly that is just now getting in the United States of America. And the honorable. Ladies and gentlemen please remain standing for the parade of colors. As we -- on the colors of the united states air force band will perform the national emblem march. Please place your hand over your heart or render a hand salute. Okay. Okay. -- Don't. Please remain standing for the prayer for all veterans. Delivered by -- chaplain Michael Pollock. Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs chaplain service. Let us -- All -- I am an American veteran. And elbow with your grace and your strength to go -- I have sacrificed. For you and country. And you have made my heritage. Long. And proud. -- -- she added that cold winter and valley forge. And dog wept at Washington and flames. And -- shed my blood -- my nation was torn in two. -- I am an American veteran. -- charged up -- one fights with colonel Teddy. And I came to France in the warts and all wars. I am an American veteran. Why was -- on that day of -- Stormed the beaches of Normandy. And -- scaled the -- upon to hawk. I met Mike -- on islands off -- islands. And I raise the flag on mount Sara botching. -- I am an American veteran. Why was there with -- office in Korea. And in the jungles of Vietnam. All I was there at desert storm. Iraq. And today. In the mountains of Afghanistan. And I remain ready to pledge my goal for all I am my Brothers and -- people. Oh god all I am an American veteran. And humbly all right -- seek speed to hawk into my prayer. And make haste to establish -- like justice. Freedom. And peace. Among men and women and among nations. And for this we humbly pray. On them. Now I'd like to invite mr. -- -- its. National president of the congressional medal of honor society. Two leaders in our pledge of allegiance. Our political leaders to the fire. The United States of America. And -- republic for -- -- status. One nation under god indivisible. -- liberty and justice Ferraro. -- Please be seated. It is now my distinct privilege to introduce the members of the Veterans Day National Committee. The committee was formed by presidential order in 1954. To hold its annual observance -- honor of America's veterans in to support veterans day observances. Throughout the nation. Please -- applause until -- introduce these special guests. Those that can please stand or acknowledge your presence when I call your name. -- Fritz president congressional medal of honor society. Joseph Johnston national commander Disabled American Veterans. Norbert Ryan junior -- national president military officers association of America. Mary could guard national president. Korean war veterans association. Luis Vasquez countries. National commander American GI forum. Robert -- national commander Jewish war veterans of the USA. Charles casino junior passed national commander American ex prisoners of war. James sprinkled national commander Catholic war veterans of the USA. John Rowan national president. Vietnam veterans of America. William time commander in chief veterans of foreign wars of the United States. John Mitchell national commander. And days. Mark Cornell national president. Blinded veterans association. John -- national commander army and navy union of the USA it. Eight -- Overstreet national commander noncommissioned officers association. Robert Newman and national vice commander of The American Legion. Patrick Little. Senior vice commander Military Order of the Purple Heart. Virtual Kanye. National president fleet reserve association. -- -- -- National common Marine Corps league. Edward broken president. Military chaplains association. Bill Lawson national president. Paralyzed veterans of America. Claude Hudson national commander. -- legion of valor of the USA. Deborah cash commander in chief. Military order of the world wars. David -- co chairman of the board. National association for -- -- services. Rick Delaney -- president the retired enlisted association. The associate members of the committee are located in the -- -- that. I'd like to ask the president's and national commanders to stand and be recognized. Ladies and gentlemen please join me in recognizing. Our veterans national leadership -- your applause. It is now my pleasure to introduce our veterans organization host. The congressional medal of honor society. The society was founded in 1946. And membership is limited to recipients of the medal of honor the nation's highest award for gallantry in combat. Today. There are 78 living recipients. Of the medal of honor. The society is represented today by their national president hailed for its. Mr. Fritz was awarded the medal of honor for displaying extraordinary courage. And selflessness while serving as a platoon leader. In the united states army in the Republic of Vietnam. In 1969. Ladies and gentlemen -- well. Mr. Harald Fritz. President Obama. Vice President Biden. Secretary -- -- -- -- -- Gold star parents and yes. Past president of the congressional medal water society representing 78 of our nation's 3365. -- -- recipients. Is -- distinct privilege to be able to salute all those present here today. In recognition of their brochures. Dedication. -- sacrificed in the name of freedom. Together we have service veterans have truly made the difference. -- because of the continued and I hard efforts of our veterans. Coupled with the support of the American people at the very foundation of this country's national strength to resolve. Continued to rock solid and allow all Americans and others throughout the world to enjoy freedom. Men and women of armed forces -- art history demonstrated unquestionable bravery and dedication. While serving in the armed forces. Of this great nation. They continue to make the sacrifices necessary to maintain the delicate balance is mandated by a free nation. For people to allow for any of -- -- replete with liberty and justice for all. Within the -- to reach of these patriots. -- the love of peace and compassion for their fellow man. Each of us also knows that we cannot maintain peace without a strong and viable deterrent to war. All Americans must stand united support of our men and women in uniform. As they are to gatekeepers. For America's future. Let us stand -- and never forget the sacrifice of those that have served in both those standing amongst us and those that are fallen in the line of duty. -- -- -- reminder of the importance in the extreme for geology of this very precious commodity we call freedom. And the very high price we must pay to maintain it. John F. Kennedy once said our nation revealed itself not only by the men and women it -- But also by the men and women and honors. The men and women and remembers. Thank you invest -- his speech and everyone -- -- to the veterans present thank you for your service and sacrifice. To the families of the veterans thank you for your everlasting support. To our girls are privileged -- sacrifices of your departed loved ones. Never be forgotten. And to our fallen comrades Brothers and sisters we salute you. For your ultimate shark corporation and your gift of freedom to watched. God bless America. Thank you mr. Fritz. Please welcome the honorable Eric -- acting secretary of veterans affairs. Mr. President. Welcome. Thank you in the First Lady. The vice president doctor Biden for your leadership. Unwavering support for our nation's veterans and their families. Are survivors. And that for many years now. Veterans day it is about celebrating and honoring our veterans who have given so much for the rest of us. On those occasions when people ask to be about values. I often point them. To VA's budgets. And suggest. The veterans day does not just -- one day a year about. It's an abiding -- -- -- every day of every year. And as they look at those budgets they get it. That is what -- reflect -- And those annual budget requests for for the -- A commitment. Every day of every year. For our veterans. Medal of honor recipient -- -- were honored by your service in your heroism in battle. Thank you and others of the congressional medal of honor society forever. Serving -- our co hosts this year. Welcome as well -- Florida greeted all of them. To our other veterans service on military service organizations. Who are important to our mission. And welcome especially to all of our veterans their families. And -- gold star families. Are survivors. We're gathered here today it's wonderful to see all of you. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi congresswoman -- -- Other distinguished members of the congress. Secretary Chuck Hagel. Mike Sherman -- -- felled other members of our defense leadership other distinguished members of the cabinet. VA colleagues distinguished guests. Ladies and gentlemen. -- 37 years ago. The leaders of this great nation depend. The magnificent words that -- in time become both vision and conscience. For a fledgling democracy. You've all heard them. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal that. They are endowed by their create -- With certain unaided unalienable rights. That among these are life. Liberty. And the pursuit of happiness. Through the centuries since. These oft quoted words. Became the bedrock of our democracy. Young men and one of them have answered calls. To preserve and defend them. Each generation has done its part. The pass a strong and free America to the next generation. Last month. President Obama awarded the medal of honor -- former army captain -- once and for heroism. And gallantry. Above and beyond the call of duty. And the battle of guns -- valley September rate 2009. During six hours of intense combat happens -- and did everything expect them. Of leaders. And then more. Keeping his ambushed you know fighting effectively. Directing all available fires -- evacuating the wounded and leading by example. And repeatedly risking his personal safety. To retrieve wounded soldiers. Marines and Afghan allies. Fallen comrades. Determination. Decisiveness. And personal toughness. Calm under fire. Calling -- the risk at all for others. We'll Swanson will tell you that there -- many more heroes in the gods -- gull that day. The president understands what the recipients of the medal of honor -- America. And above all he values -- the service and sacrifice of all veterans of meant to our nation. Not us why he has provided such strong personal leadership and -- wavering support. For this department. And for veterans. With the help of congress BA's budgets have steadily increased. -- -- past five budget requests have sought to increase BA's resource and by over 50%. And this is what we bring to the mission. As a result we have enrolled two million more veterans for VA health care. Drop disability claims backlog by over 2111000. Claims them the last 230 days reduced veterans homelessness. And rolled our one million veteran. -- to the new post 9/11 GI bill education program. -- -- for a stronger advocate than our president. Ladies and gentlemen it's my great personal and professional honor. To present to you our commander in chief the president of the United States of America. Barack Obama. Good morning -- -- Thanks secretary -- sexy for your lifetime of service -- our nation. And for being a tireless advocate on behalf of America's veterans including your fellow Vietnam veterans. To Vice President Biden and doctor Joseph Biden sectors -- and apparatus. More what do felt. Major general Buchanan. Most of all to our outstanding veterans service organizations. Our men and women in uniform. To the proud. Veterans and family members joining us in this sacred place. Michelle and -- are incredibly honored to be would be. You all here today again. To the gold star families. And the Brothers and sisters. In arms who walked past of these hallowed grounds. The cemeteries around the world. We join you. As you remember your loved ones. Who -- America's uniform. And here Arlington them. Section sixty we've ensured that you can continue to bring the small meadows your love and affection. To the final resting place of these American heroes. Today we gather once more -- patriots were rendered the highest service any American can offer this nation. Those who fought for our freedom. And stood sentry. First security. On this hillside. Of solemn remembrance and veteran's halls and proud parades across America. We join as one people to honor and that we can never fully repaid. The life of our nation across every generation. There are those who stand apart. -- step up. To raise their hands they take that over. They put on the uniform and they put their lives on the line. They do this -- that the rest of us might live in a country and a world that a safer. Freer and more jobs. This is the gifts they've given us. This is the debt. But we all of them. That fought on Graeme at Lexington so that we can make independent country they imagined. They fought on the fields of Gettysburg so that we could make whole the nation torn asunder. They fought on the beaches of you're -- across. Pacific islands. And from their sacrifice re -- the strongest and most prosperous nation. In the history of the world. And this year as we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the fighting in Korea we'd play. Special tribute to all those who served in the Korean War. From the jungles of Vietnam to desert storm -- the mountains of the Balkans may have answered America's call. And sense. America was attacked on that clear September morning. Millions more have assumed that men. The finding one of the greatest generations of military service this country's ever produced. On tour after tour after tour in Iraq and Afghanistan. This generation. 9/11 generation. Has met every mission we have asked of them. Today we can say that because of their heroic service. Corps ball Qaeda is on the path to defeat. Our nation is more secure. Our homeland -- -- -- men and women like the soldier and soon to be better and I met a few months ago. Jakarta help. Your -- deployed to. To Iraq twice and -- for survived not one but two. Spears made free. Separate idea explosions. And when she was well enough she deployed again. This time to Afghanistan where she was often the only woman. -- -- forward operating bases. She proudly wears the combat action badge. And -- your car is committed to helping other wounded warriors recover from the trials of war. Helping the troops. She says is what I'm all about. My fellow Americans that's what. We should be all about. Our work is more urgent than ever. Because this chapter of war is coming to an end. Soon one of the first Marines arrive in Afghanistan twelve years ago. Brigadier general Daniel you. Will lead his Camp Pendleton Marines as they become one of the last major groups of Marines deployed in this war. And over the coming months more of our troops will come home. This what are our troop levels in Afghanistan will be down to 34000 up. And by this time next year the transition to Afghan led security won't be nearly complete. Longest war in American history -- and as is true after every conflict. There's a risk. That the demoted service of our veterans could fade from the forefront of our minds. -- we might turn to other thanks. The part of the reason we're here today -- to pledge that we will never forget. The profound sacrifices that are made -- -- thing. Today. -- reminds us of our sacred obligations. For even though this time of war is coming to a close. Our time of service. To our newest veterans has only just begun. Think about. Our troops Wear the uniform for a time -- there were another prop title. The title of veteran. For decades. For the rest of their lives. As a nation we make sure. We have the best led best trained best equipped military in the world we have to devote just as much energy and -- making sure we have the best care for best freedom that's. Respected veterans of world. So when we talk about fulfilling our promises to our veterans. We don't just mean for a few years. We -- now tomorrow. And forever. Not just. For generations past but for this generation of veterans. And all who won't fall. That's why as commander in chief I'm -- Keep making sure we're providing unprecedented support -- -- veterans. Even as we make. -- -- as we make difficult fiscal choices as a nation. -- making vital investments and our veterans. -- keep improving veterans' health care including mental health care so you can stay strong. Making sure the veterans not covered by the VA can secure -- affordable health insurance. -- producing the claims backlog. We've slashed it by a third of the cents march already keep at it so you can get the benefits. You have earned -- that you need when you Needham. We're gonna keep helping our -- veterans and their families pursue their education. Under the post 9/11 GI bill. We're just welcomed our one million student -- and were ready for all those who come next. -- demanding that the rights and dignity of every veteran are held. Including by pushing for the disabilities treaties that are disabled veterans -- -- The same opportunities to travel and work and study around the world as everybody else. And with the help of Michelle. Doctor Joseph Biden. Joining forces we're gonna keep fighting to give every veterans -- fought for America the chance to pursue the American dream. A fair shot -- the jobs and opportunity Unita help us rebuild and grow here at all. Because you're bringing home the skills in the work ethic and leadership necessary to start companies. -- -- -- communities. And take care of your fellow veterans. That's our promise to you and all who served. To be fair. Misfortune. When you come home every step of the way. And as a nation we will strive to be worthy of the sacrifices. You make. That's what we -- all our veterans. That's what we all veterans like Richard Overton. Who served. In the army in World War II. He was there at. However I want to know -- some dilemmas are overtook him. It -- there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa home. He was there at Iwo jima -- said I only got out of there by the grace of god. When the war ended Richard. Headed home to Texas. To a nation bitterly divided by race. And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect. That he deserved. At home but this veteran held his -- hot. He carried on and lived his life -- honor and dignity. He built his wife a house with his own two hands. He went back to work in the furniture business. In time he served as a career in the Texas State Capitol where he worked for four governors and made more friends than most of is doing lifetime. And today Richard still lives in the house -- he built all those years ago. -- is on long and every Sunday he hops in his 1971. Ford truck and drives one of nice ladies in his neighborhood church. This is the life of one American veterans living proud and strong on the land he helped keep free. And earlier this year the great -- and honor flight Austin brought Richard Washington DC for the first thought. And he and his fellow veterans pay their respects the World War II memorial. In the may visit the memorial. To -- king junior. And as Richard said in a wheelchair beneath that great marble statue he went. And the crowd gathered around him -- -- To see one of the oldest living veterans of World War II bear witness to a day. To the progress of the nation he thought might never come. Richard Overton. This American veteran there's a 107 years old. -- -- -- honored that is here with us today and let's -- -- -- the stand again. Because they can't stand. The result will be judged. Not just by how well we care for our troops in battle but how we treat them when they come home. And by the American rebuild together. -- what we do with the security and peace that they have helped grant us. By the progress that allows citizens from Richard Overton did you cardinal got to play their part in the American -- Today our message to all those who very worn the uniform. Of this nation is this. We will stand by your side whether you're seven days out or like Richard seven years -- Because here in America we take care -- We honor the sacrifices. Has been made and our name to this nation that we loved. And we commit ourselves to standing by these veterans and their families for as long as we're blessed to walk this -- God bless you all god bless our veterans. God bless our men and women in uniform and god bless these United States of America. Ladies and gentlemen please stand and join the united states air force men and singing. God bless America. Her and it's. Saying the carrier -- I. And hello a little. Son is okay. It's wrong. And I. It's. It's a. We're yeah. Okay. Yeah okay. It's. Me. It's. Okay. Load. All. -- us and we're here. -- Yeah. -- -- -- -- -- Okay. Staying in a news. Okay. Me okay. -- -- you okay. And so with that it is the conclusion. This veterans day ceremony recognition at Arlington national cemetery the 94 recognition today. The president's saying that the service of the men and women in the armed forces is that death that we can never repay as a nation. And also over. Calling those wars and one particular individual that was in attendance today. Richard Overton 107 years old believed to be the oldest. Surviving World War II veteran and there he was right there want to bring in ABC's the Martinez standing by the Pentagon. Louis certainly. A very touching tribute for Richard over -- there and as we heard from the from the personal stories the president had shared so -- very active member. In American society. One thing that he did not mention -- is that Richard Overton. Takes a little drop of whiskey in his coffee every morning. And not only that he smokes twelve cigars a day I don't know quite how he's doing it but he is. Our teachers survivor if you and up with a very -- war history -- to -- boot. How well one other thing I wouldn't depend president mentioned that he come to visit the will -- to memorial as many other. Elderly will -- to vets are doing right now to come and visit this -- newest memorial to honor their service. He visited earlier this year and he jokingly said what does it take to get to meet the president. Well they heard him and they brought into the White House today where he had breakfast with the president and Vice President Biden. And certainly shows his strength of character obviously. -- you really wanna talk the you know the president had addressed the ongoing commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan and and and a recent. And I went to actually look at some of the numbers about our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan this veterans day in fact in Iraq. Those members that have served since 9/11. Listing 122650000. And those in uniform right now at two million. And those who died in Iraq at 4423. And those who have died in Afghanistan. 2287. And as the president had mentioned Louis it is. Obviously a very real very correct a situation that -- in the mind of all generations. That's right getting heat it get it with a great eloquence they're talking about how whether you're seven days out. From your military service or -- or seven years outlet Richard Overton. We will take care you heard VA secretary Eric Shinseki saying the same thing. That the commitment to veterans is not just only on veterans statesman not about one day it's an enduring commitment. On the part of everyone in the US government to take care of -- -- and of course as we spoke about earlier in the residences -- -- our generation. I'm given that so many have served and in and in -- wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And -- services that matter even if they did and the equally to those two countries so -- residence on veterans -- to us to our generation. But you heard him talk about. The world we're -- -- the Korean vets -- sixty years ago the war ended for them and as well as the Vietnam that so many of them who are also. Whose wreckage of the service has recognized -- sell more than just -- day. But and abiding commitment to all of this -- And we -- the things the president did talk about was the commitment by the country to its offense and in fact he brought up. The decision is that the government faces regarding budgets. And regarding the veterans administration. Well and one good thing is that what we here at the Pentagon. Are always -- hearing about what they call the -- history -- cuts communities that 10% across the board cuts that are affecting them military's budget for the next decade. The Department of Veterans Affairs is actually exempt from those budget cuts but you've got to think that a lot of veterans. Recent veterans continue working for infants department. Or in secondary. Companies that deal with pentagon so they may get affected as well even though -- VA benefits won't be cut. Potentially they could face difficult times because these cuts will hit the military -- -- in the next decade. I'm the next round of these cuts believe is believed -- team. Take place sometime engineering the hope is being that congress will actually -- do something to avoid them from taking place. But it doesn't appear that that is going to be the case and we're looking at another thirty billion dollar cut. In January and -- in effect -- but it's a huge way but for veterans again. No cuts to them for their veterans affairs benefits but potentially is secondary impacts if they work for it. And you know what are the other things -- -- reflecting on this veterans day is the state of the veteran they're rich returning. It's far as employment numbers and unemployment numbers. The rate of unemployment for returning veterans is much higher than the national average in fact it is is twelve point 1%. It's pretty significantly higher than the -- normal -- the national average which just went up this month actually seven point 3%. But those numbers have been going down and that the levels before returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. Are pretty consistent. We keep hearing some anecdotal evidence about how. On has increased homelessness than almost as a time among some veterans and their major outreach efforts try to bring them back into the work force. You're seeing efforts by major and national players like Wal-Mart. Making a commitment with a major advertising campaign saying if you war vet who's been out for a year and honorable discharged were entirely. Busy -- player here also making commitments to veterans so America's companies -- hearing this. And recognizing that there is an issue with returning that's not finding employment. And they're doing what they can. Of course veterans department veterans affairs also doing what they can. -- raise awareness and -- -- what they can you raise that level unemployment. Which has been. High in recent years trying. Support those who have made such selfless and decision to serve the country and all of us ABC's the -- tennis at the Pentagon Louis thank you for that we appreciate that. We do have a complete report right here on For now I'm -- -- -- New York with -- ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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