Soldiers honored by Obamas, Biden — on 3 continents

Michelle Obama, Malaysia Chevere
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.Michael Probst / AP
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

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.

"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.

"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."

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.

"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.