Image: Michelle Obama serves soldiers dinner
Michael Probst  /  AP
First lady Michelle Obama serves dinner to U.S. troops and family members at the officer's club at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Thursday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 11/11/2010 12:05:39 PM ET 2010-11-11T17:05:39

Veterans Day 2010 had a multinational flair on Thursday, with President Barack Obama visiting U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, first lady Michelle Obama making an unexpected visit for dinner with troops in Germany and Vice President Joe Biden attending to the formal services near the nation's capital.

The vice president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The Veterans Day tradition was set to be followed by parades in cities and towns across the country.

In South Korea, the president spoke before 28,000 troops at the Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul.

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"On this day, we honor every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America," he said. "We salute fallen heroes, and keep in our prayers those who are still in harm's way — like the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We recall acts of uncommon bravery and selflessness, but we also remember that honoring those who've served is about more than the words we say on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It's about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It's about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits they have earned. It's about serving all of you as well as you've served the United States of America."

He said that's why he's has asked for increased budgets for the Veterans Administration.

"So I want all of you to know that when you come home, your country will be there be for you. That is the commitment I make as your commander-in-chief," he said. "That is the sacred trust between the United States of America and all who defend its ideals.

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"It's a trust that's been forged in places far from our shores: from the beaches of Europe to the jungles of Vietnam; from the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to the peninsula where we stand today."

After the speech, Obama laid a wreath at a war memorial.

In Germany, first lady Michelle Obama surprised U.S. servicemen and women based at Ramstein Air Base's Officers Club, jumping in to serve them steaks at a special Veterans Day meal.

"Oh, my God! Where's my camera," gasped Lavondee Stallings, a preschool teacher whose husband serves in the military, as Obama entered the banquet room.

Stallings was one of some 200 people with whom the first lady spent time during a refueling stopover on the way home from her tour of Asia with the president.

"We are so grateful to all of you," she said. "Not just our servicemen and women, but their kids, wives, husbands and parents."

Video: Veteran's Day for those who still serve (on this page)

After serving, Obama went through the room doling out hugs, handshakes and warm thanks to troops and their families.

Ten-year-old Malaysia Chevere got a special shout-out when she told the first lady about her grades.

"She's a straight-A student!" Obama told the room, as the fifth-grader and her mother beamed.

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"It made me feel real proud," said Malaysia's mother, Sgt. Calvernette Chevere of Williamsburg, Va. "She (the first lady) made everyone here feel real special."

Before the stop at Ramstein, the first lady met with wounded troops recovering at the nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center — the largest U.S. military hospital outside the United States.

There, Obama sought to cheer soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pvt. Eric Griego, 22, received a hug and a special presidential medallion, known as a commander's coin, from the first lady.

Griego's mother, Brenda, said her son "perked up" after the private meeting and that it made him feel important.

Besides meeting with the American troops, Obama met with her German counterpart, Bettina Wulff, before continuing her journey back to Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: For a soldier's kids, a Veterans Day surprise

  1. Closed captioning of: For a soldier's kids, a Veterans Day surprise

    >>> went to their school and it turned into a day they'll never forget. we have the story for you tonight from joe fryer, of our nbc station kin gtv in seattle.

    >> reporter: they know even when a soldier is away, heroes abound.

    >> they're my little heroes , yeah.

    >> reporter: she was amazed at the bravery of her kids, sam and nate, and 3-year-old luchiana.

    >> i love to kiss him.

    >> reporter: all three have stepped up in the absence of their big hero, their dad. he's been serving in afghanistan since last november and wanted to reward his sons with a veterans day surprise at school.

    >> my name is lieutenant colonel matt.

    >> reporter: the video message from afghanistan.

    >> we live at the edge of a runway.

    >> reporter: the boys know dad should be home by christmas, or if they're lucky, thanksgiving.

    >> thank you for everything we're done. we're going to be a family again.

    >> reporter: at least that's what they think.

    >> i've got a better idea. just stay right there for a minute. where's my boys.

    >> dad!

    >> reporter: some tight tell you it's not nice to fool children. those people have never seen a moment like this.

    >> i'm really, really, really, really --

    >> i think i'm going to go crazy.

    >> my little heroes got their print i wanted them to have.

    >> reporter: it's a moment of heroes of all sizes.

    >> it's no longer surreal. now it's actually happened. the year's over. get back to being a family and a dad.

    >> reporter: joe fryer, nbc news, washington.

    >> how about that. our thanks to our friend joe friar of king tv in seattle.

Photos:

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  1. Members of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad, Dan Fisher and Dennis Lande, prepare a U.S. flag before the day's funerals at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 2. Every weekday, 12 months a year, the men of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad are out in force and in formation, paying tribute to veterans being laid to rest. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Members of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle play cribbage before they head out to attend the funerals of fellow veterans at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 2. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Veteran George Weiss Jr. straightens his cap before he leaves to command the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad for the day's funeral ceremonies at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 5. Weiss is the only survivor of the founding members of the squad, which is now made up of 128 members. Since 1979, it has performed at more than 57,000 vets' funerals. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. This portrait taken in 1955 shows Archie Hazzard as a Marine in Korea. Hazzard is a member of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad member Gerry Ballot, left, helps newcomer and fellow veteran Joe Zakrzewski with his uniform as they get ready for the day's funerals at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 2. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Veteran Dick O'Toole, 87, laughs with fellow members of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad before the day's funerals at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 2. O'Toole, one of the oldest members of the squad, served as a merchant marine in WWII. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Members of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad perform at a veteran's funeral at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Jim McGee, a member of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad, salutes during a veteran's funeral at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Veteran George Weiss Jr. holds up his Presidential Citizens Medal before heading out to command the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad for the day's funerals at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 2. Weiss is the only survivor of the founding members of the squad, which is now made up of 128 members. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Veteran Clarence Kraemer plays Taps during a funeral for a fallen veteran at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minn. on Nov. 2. (Dawn Villella / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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