President Barack Obama and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, right, of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, lower their heads after the president placed a wreath Monday at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery during a Veterans Day ceremony.
ARLINGTON, Va. — President Barack Obama on Monday paid tribute to those who have served in the nation’s military, including one of the nation’s oldest veterans, 107-year-old Richard Overton.
“This is the life of one American veteran, living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free,” Obama said during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Overton rose slowly and stood to loud applause when Obama mentioned his name, then stood a second time at the president’s request and drew more applause.
He was among hundreds attending the outdoor ceremony on a crisp, sunny Veterans Day. Earlier Monday, Overton and other veterans attended a breakfast at the White House.
Obama used his remarks to remind the nation that thousands of service members are still at war in Afghanistan. The war is expected to formally conclude at the end of next year, though the U.S. may keep a small footprint in the country.
Soon, “the longest war in America’s history will end,” Obama declared.
As the 12-year-old war draws down, Obama said the nation has a responsibility to ensure that the returning troops are the “best cared-for and best respected veterans in the world.” The country’s obligations to those who served “endure long after the battle ends,” he said.
As president, Obama said he wanted to see the “best cared-for and best respected veterans in the world.”
Obama also noted that it has now been 60 years since the end of the fighting in Korea.
“We join as one people to honor a debt we cannot fully repay,” he said.
In Oklahoma, a retired Air Force colonel who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war says a new permanent wall commemorating Vietnam veterans in Enid will offer healing, love and unity. Col. Lee Ellis was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Woodring Wall of Honor and Veterans Park at Woodring Regional Airport in Enid.
The wall had been part of a traveling exhibit but will now become Oklahoma’s official memorial to those who served in the Vietnam war. The wall is a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington.
Ellis was a Vietnam prisoner of war with Arizona Sen. John McCain. He says the wall will help ensure that the men and women who served are never forgotten. The memory of the Sept. 11 attacks surfaced at New York City’s Veterans Day parade, with families of World Trade Center victims carrying a giant American flag along Fifth Avenue amid shouts of “Don’t forget 9/11.”
“When I was first elected mayor, there was still smoke rising from the World Trade Center site,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a pre-parade wreath-laying ceremony. “And that was a very difficult time, when men and women in the armed forces were stepping up to confront new threats to ensure our safety.”
Organizers called the New York celebration, which has been renamed America’s Parade, the nation’s largest Veterans Day event.
In Nevada, the Las Vegas parade, billed as the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi, took Nellis Air Force Base as its theme after government cuts led to cancellation of an air show there.
Floats featured zooming planes and trails of exhaust, and contingents of Air Force personnel and trainees marched at in powder blue uniforms at intervals during the procession.
Retired Air Force mechanic Mark Goldstom, 51, took his 14 year-old son to see the air show last year but spent Monday watching the parade from a lawn chair downtown.
“You don’t have the airplanes, the smell and things that you would at an airshow, but it’s still great,” he said.
Goldstom was more disturbed about the reason the air show was canceled this year.
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