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President, nation honor military veterans for 'highest service'

Hailing “patriots who have rendered the highest service any American can offer this nation," President Barack Obama honored the country's military veterans Monday at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

The president kept with tradition, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns before speaking at the Memorial Amphitheater to “honor a debt we can never fully repay.”

The crowd roared as Obama introduced 107-year-old Richard Overton, America’s oldest living veteran, who fought in the Pacific during World War II. 

But the president also extended his praise to the post-9/11 generation members of the armed forces, saying that those who rallied after the national tragedy are “defining one of the greatest generations of military service this country has ever produced.”

Obama said his administration would continue to push for veterans rights to health care, especially mental health care, even for those not covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Obama also highlighted the approaching end to the war in Afghanistan and said that by next December, the transition to Afghan-led security would be nearly complete.

“The longest war in American history will end,” he said.

In a proclamation issued last week, Obama encouraged “all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans.” Here are some of the ways veterans are being honored Monday across the nation: 

ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 11: Members of the military stand at attention before a ceremony where U.S. President Barack Obama will lay a commemorative wreath for Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. For Veterans Day, President Obama is paying tribute to military veterans past and present who have served and sacrificed their lives for their country. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Mark Wilson/Getty Images
<p> <b>New York City: America’s Parade</b> </p> <p>The nation’s largest annual Veterans Day Parade honors women in the service with former U.S. Army General Ann E. Dunwoody, the first woman to achieve four-star rank in any U.S. military service as this year’s Parade Grand Marshall. The <a href="http://www.uwvc.org/" target="_blank">United War Veterans Council</a>, which sponsors the parade, has renamed the event “<a href="http://www.americasparade.org/" target="_blank">America’s Parade</a>” as a national salute to veterans. With 27,000 participants featured this year, the event starts at 11:11 a.m. and runs on Fifth Avenue from 26 to 53 street.</p> <p> <b>Washington, D.C.: Tuskegee Airmen</b> </p> <p>Two of the original Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who served in World War II, will be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for Veteran’s Day. William Fauntroy Jr. and Major Louis Anderson, who are both D.C. residents, <a href="http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/2-Tuskegee-Airmen-to-Be-Honored-at-DC-Ceremony-231410291.html" target="_blank">will be commemorated</a> at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum for their service; Mayor Vincent Grey and congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will also lay a wreath at the African-American Civil War Memorial.</p> <p> <b>The National Veterans Day Run</b> </p> <p>The National Veteran’s Day Run spans 40 cities across the nation in an annual 11K run to raise money for veterans causes and honor those who have served and their families. This year’s charity recipient for the race is the <a href="http://www.foldsofhonor.org/" target="_blank">Folds of Honor Foundation</a>, which offers scholarships and other assistance to spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled during military service. The race, which offers reduced-rate entry for Veterans, is the first to take place simultaneously in different U.S. cities on the same day under a united cause, according to the event’s web site. <a href="http://www.veteransdayrun.com/about/locations" target="_blank">Here’s a list</a> of cities participating in the run.</p> <p> <strong>Oklahoma honors POWs </strong> </p> <p>A retired soldier who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war is dedicating a wall commemorating Vietnam veterans. Col. Lee Ellis is speaking Monday at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Enid's Woodring Regional Airport. Ellis was a former Vietnam prisoner of war with Arizona Sen. John McCain. The wall is a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. The dedication ceremony will include a 21-gun salute by the Silver Talon Honor Guard from Vance Air Force Base and a flyover of Vietnam-era aircraft. </p> <p> <b>The Dallas Veterans Day Parade</b> </p> <p> <a href="http://www.vetsdayindallas.org/" target="_blank">The Dallas Veterans Day Parade</a> was expected to feature a batch of future veterans — 150 enlistees taking the oath of enlistment — <a href="http://www.nbcdfw.com/contact-us/community/11-11-13Veterans-Day-Parade-231056681.html" target="_blank">and 25,000 spectators</a> in downtown Dallas. </p> <p> <a href="http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/" target="_blank">Here’s a map</a> from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of other celebrations throughout the nation.</p> <p>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</p>
Berna Brown visits the grave of her late husband, Robert E. Brown, who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and passed away in 2011, at Ft. Logan National Cemetery, in Denver, on Veteran's Day, Monday Nov. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) Brennan Linsley / AP
COCONUT GROVE, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Staff Sergeant Zachary White retired from the Air Force carries the American flag as he participates in a Veterans Day ceremony on November 11, 2013 in Coconut Grove, Florida. The ceremony was held by the Coconut Grove American Legion Post #182 in honor of those veterans who have served the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Joe Raedle / Getty Images