Sanders vows to 'keep our promise' to vets

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders defended health care benefits for veterans in a speech following a Veterans Day Parade in Lebanon, New Hampshire
  • "It means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us," Sanders said

Lebanon, New Hampshire (CNN)Bernie Sanders marked Veterans Day on Wednesday here by arguing that "patriotism or love of country" mean both protecting soldiers at war and veterans when they come home.

Sanders, the independent Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate, hopped over the state border to Lebanon to march in the town's Veterans Day parade and give a brief speech to the roughly 100 people assembled in the town's central park.
"To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us," Sanders said. "It means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us."
    He added: "The bottom line is that if we are serious about our patriotism and about defending those who defended us it means that all of our veterans get the benefits and the health care they need and that they were promised and that they get that health care in a timely manner."
    On the gray day in the Connecticut River valley -- an area of New Hampshire that Sanders' state operation views as important to his success in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary -- Sanders was greeted my well-wishers who urged him to keep up his success on the campaign trail.
    "Thank you for everything," said one man lined up along the street in Lebanon. "Thank you for running, Bernie," offered another supporter.
    Sanders even joked at the start of the parade that he was surprised by the attention around his candidacy.
    "They had a Bernie bear doll," Sanders exclaimed about a home he visited when he walked the streets of Concord, New Hampshire with his granddaughters. "Can you believe that?"
    Sanders declined to answer political questions when reporters asked him about Tuesday night's Republican debate. Instead, the senator who was once the chairman of the Senate's Committee on Veterans' Affairs stressed bipartisanship of veterans' issues.
    "I would hope that everybody in Congress works together to make that happen," he said after listing the importance of veteran health care.
    The day was not devoid of politics. Sanders was asked about coming to campaign in New Hampshire by a woman marching with him.
    "New Hampshire," he said somewhat hopefully, "is not so different from Vermont."