U.S. President Barack Obama leads the nation in honoring the nation's veterans on Friday, a national holiday that pays tribute to those who have served in the armed forces.
As part of the Veterans Day events, President Obama is to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony and deliver remarks at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington. Later, he is to travel to the southern California city of San Diego, where he is to deliver remarks on a US Navy carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.
Veterans Day commemorates the date in 1918 when the cease-fire agreement was signed that ended the battles of World War One (("the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month")). It is observed in Europe and elsewhere as Armistice or Remembrance Day.
Earlier this month, President Obama issued a proclamation honoring the men and women of the U.S. armed forces. The proclamation said that in times of war and peace alike, "our veterans have served with courage and distinction in the face of tremendous adversity, demonstrating an unfaltering commitment to America and our people." He said many have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the country they loved.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also issued a Veterans Day message extending his thanks to troops and veterans. He said the U.S. owes a profound debt to all veterans and military families, noting that President Obama has designated November as Military Family Month.
This year, Veterans Day comes less than two months before all U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq, and while nearly 100,000 American service members remain in Afghanistan. U.S. combat troops are set to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. International forces have already begun transferring security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts.
The Afghan ambassador to the U.S., Eklil Hakimi, said in a message that Afghanistan remains the front line in the war against terror. He said the collective mission to combat terrorism on Afghan soil unites Americans, Afghans and their allies in a firm commitment to overcome oppression, fear and intimidation imposed by terrorists all over the globe. Hakimi said Afghanistan stands side by side with the United States, an important strategic partner.