Photos: America honors its veterans

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  1. Veterans of Foreign Wars National Honor Guard wait in the rain for ceremonies to begin on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Flags on the graves of Civil War veterans at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Mich. The 25th annual Veterans Day program honors the memory of the 102nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment who are buried in the cemetery. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Veterans wait to hear US President Barack Obama deliver remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. President Barack Obama rests his hand on the shoulder of a visitor at Arlington National Cemetery's section 60, where graves of soldiers from the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts are located. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. David Slater, a Marine Corp veteran of WWII, right, and Sgt. P.J. James, a Marine Corp veteran of the Vietnam War, greet friends and well-wishers before the start of the Veterans Day parade in New York. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Veteran Mario Morrone of Philadelphia pays his respects to friends who died while serving in Vietnam, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An unidentified member on a JROTC honor guard participates in a Veteran's Day ceremony in Omaha, Nebraska. (Nati Harnik / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Vietnam veteran Dave Shanaman of Royersford, Pa., holds memorial tags he had made with names of friends who died while serving in Vietnam. "I've been coming here for a long time and it just doesn't get any easier," said Shanaman during a visit to Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrick Bateman and his 4-year-old son, Bryan, visit the grave of a war veteran friend at Los Angeles National Cemetery in Los Angeles. Bateman said a few of his friends, who served in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are buried here. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. People watch as U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Hood march past as they participate in a Veterans Day parade through downtown Killeen, Texas. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Beca Wilkerson, 8, watches as U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Hood march past as they participate in a Veterans Day parade through downtown in Killeen, Texas. The town where many military families live is still dealing with the aftermath of the rampage allegedly by U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist, who is accussed of killing 13 people and wounded 30 in a shooting at the near by Fort Hood military base on November 5, 2009. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. John Sam watches a Veterans Day parade pass through downtown in Killeen, Texas. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bill Toledo, center, and other Navajo Code Talkers at Veterans Day ceremonies in New York. The young Navajo Marines, using secret Navajo language-encrypted military terms, helped the U.S. prevail at Iwo Jima and other World War II Pacific battles. The Navajo Code Talkers plan to march in the Veterans Day parade to drum up support for a museum that will preserve their story. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Samuel Chan is a Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam and Korean wars. He was among the 20,000 participants in the annual Veterans Day parade in New York City, which celebrated its 90th anniversary. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. U.S. military look on before the annual Veterans Day paradein New York City. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Vietnam war veteran Jimmy Bacolo, of Staten Island N.Y., waits for the start of the Veteran's Day parade in New York. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. US soldiers march along fifth avenue as part of the Veterans Day parade in New York. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A US army veteran sells flags and pins during the Veterans Day parade in New York. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Derek Ryder and his sister Danielle Ryder sit by the gravesite of their father Sgt. Daniel Ryder at the State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, N.H. (Jim Cole / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. U.S. soldiers help themselves to plates of food during a ceremony at the U.S. Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 11/11/2009 3:28:03 PM ET 2009-11-11T20:28:03

President Barack Obama carried out the traditional Veterans Day role Wednesday, then made a surprise visit to a part of Arlington National Cemetery reserved for troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, walking among the grave sites and talking to mourners.

In his brief speech after a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Obama paid fond tribute to the determination of the U.S. military, from those who served generations ago to today's troops fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and missions around the world.

"To all of them — to our veterans, to the fallen and to their families — there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice," he said.

Obama pledged he would do right by all veterans and families, saying: "America will not let you down."

The president spoke one day after somberly honoring the victims of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. His first Veterans Day as president comes as Obama is on the cusp of announcing a revamped war strategy in Afghanistan that is expected to include sending thousands more troops into that war zone.

After his comments, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spent some time in the section of the cemetery where fallen troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried. The Obamas surprised family members who were there to pay their respects and spent some time talking to them.

Earlier at this national burial ground for war heroes, Obama, wearing a black raincoat, placed a flower-laced wreath on a stand and stood over it silently for several moments at the site of the Tomb of the Unknowns. He placed his hand on his heart as a bugler played taps.

In Terre Haute, Indiana, hundreds of people lined up for a Veterans Day parade, serving as a funeral procession for Army Sgt. Dale Griffin whose body was saluted by Obama at Dover Air Force upon its return to the United States.

Griffin was killed on Oct. 27 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Vice President Joe Biden also recognized the Veterans Day holiday Wednesday, speaking to a group of 240 active duty service members and veterans at the Naval Observatory.

It is the "sacred duty" of the United States to provide for active duty members of the military as well as care for their families, Biden said.

The vice president told the crowd he was grateful for their service and humbled by their sacrifices. As a military father himself, he said he understands the difficulty of waiting for your loved one to return from deployment.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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