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Obama Salutes US Veterans on National Holiday

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama speaks during the annual National Veterans Day commemoration, Nov. 11, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

President Barack Obama speaks during the annual National Veterans Day commemoration, Nov. 11, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

It is Veterans Day in the United States, with President Barack Obama saluting the men and women who have served in the country's armed forces and are serving now.

He hosted a breakfast Wednesday for veterans and their families at the White House, and later laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

In a nationally televised speech, Obama called on American businesses to increase their hiring of veterans leaving military service after tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The day of tributes "will ring hollow" if the country does not continue to support "its returning heroes," he said.

WATCH: video of the president at Tomb of the Unknowns

"Our veterans are some of the most talented, driven, capable people on Earth," Obama said. "They can perform under pressure. They get stuff done."

In Europe, church bells tolled and officials laid wreaths to commemorate the millions of soldiers killed in World War I. Ceremonies in Paris and London as well as many smaller cities across Europe marked the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. It ended what at the time was called "the war to end all wars."

Vickie Hunt sits next to the grave of her late husband, Vietnam veteran Cpl. Timothy Hunt, at Georgia National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2015, in Canton, Ga.

Vickie Hunt sits next to the grave of her late husband, Vietnam veteran Cpl. Timothy Hunt, at Georgia National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2015, in Canton, Ga.

Special discounts offered

Restaurants and other retailers across the United States are offering free or discounted items and service to the nation's military veterans Wednesday in honor of the annual holiday.

The special tokens of appreciation are taking place alongside more traditional and somber observances.

Veterans Day's origins date back to 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day to celebrate the first anniversary of the end of fighting between Germany and the allied nations of Britain, France and the United States.

Armistice Day

Armistice Day became an official U.S. holiday in 1938. It was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, in the aftermath of both World War II and the Korean War. It is separate from Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May and honors servicemen and women killed in war.

The U.S. Veterans Day holiday also coincides with other World War I-era holidays around the world, including Remembrance Day in Britain and the commonwealth nations of Australia and Canada.

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