Trump, 2020 Dem contenders tout efforts to boost veterans

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Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a fund-raising fish fry for U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

WASHINGTON, DC – On Veterans Day, President Donald Trump paid tribute to America's troops at a New York City parade as top 2020 Democratic candidates outlined their plans for the Department of Veterans Affairs, such as naming a woman to run the agency for the first time.

The Democratic proposals, coming two days before historic impeachment hearings, sought to highlight policy differences with the embattled president before a key bloc of voters.

"The president has let veterans down," said Democrat Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

A former Navy intelligence officer, Buttigieg said female veterans and service members in particular have been neglected, including on concerns about sexual harassment and women's health. Women are the military's fastest-growing subgroup.

"I think leadership plays a huge role so absolutely I'd seek to name a woman to lead VA," he said.

Trump was the first sitting president to attend New York's veterans parade, viewing veterans as standing among his biggest supporters. Past presidents have typically spent Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery for a ceremonial wreath laying.

Trump praised the strength of the U.S. military and the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying the nation's veterans "risked everything for us. Now it is our duty to serve and protect them every single day of our lives."

More than 100 protesters booed, some holding black balloons that read "support our troops, impeach." In a liberal city where Trump is deeply unpopular in spite of his roots there, a nearby building's soaring windows were adorned with signs reading "IMPEACH" and "CONVICT."