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Obama Honors US Veterans

President Barack Obama (l) participates in a wreath-laying ceremony on Veterans Day at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Nov 11, 2011
President Barack Obama (l) participates in a wreath-laying ceremony on Veterans Day at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Nov 11, 2011
Kent Klein

President Barack Obama honored America’s war veterans Friday, as part of Veterans’ Day observances.  The president took part in ceremonies at the nation’s largest military cemetery.

On a sunny, windy autumn day at Arlington National Cemetery, a military band and chorus performed patriotic music, in tribute to those who have served in the nation’s armed forces.  

A military honor guard presented its weapons, and President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, then bowed his head.

A short time later, the president thanked the roughly 22 million American veterans for their service.

“You are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served this country with honor and distinction," said President Obama. "On behalf of a proud and grateful nation, we thank you.”

Mr. Obama reminded those at the ceremony that his administration is ending the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In just a few weeks, the long war in Iraq will finally come to an end," said Obama. "Our transition in Afghanistan is moving forward.  My fellow Americans, our troops are coming home.”

When those troops arrive, they will face a sluggish economy, where unemployment has persisted at about nine percent for several months.

The president said he has ordered the federal government to increase the number of veterans it hires.  And he and his wife Michelle have mounted a campaign to persuade private industry to put thousands of veterans to work.

“Our economy needs their tremendous talents and specialized skills, so I challenged our business leaders to hire 100,000 post - 9/11 veterans and their spouses over the next few years, and yesterday, many of these leaders joined Michelle to announce that they will meet that challenge," he said.

The president and Mrs. Obama began the day by hosting a White House breakfast for veterans.

The observances at Arlington were the president’s last appearances before leaving on a nine-day trip to Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia.  

In the state of Hawaii, where Mr. Obama was born, he will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC, and the North American leaders’ summit.  He will later attend the East Asia summit in the Indonesian resort of Bali.  

Mr. Obama’s first stop on the trip combines a salute to veterans with his favorite sport, basketball.  The president and first lady were to attend a college basketball game (North Carolina vs. Michigan State) on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, off the coast of California.

The body of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was buried at sea from the deck of the Vinson earlier this year.

Veterans’ Day began as Armistice Day, marking the agreement ending World War I at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.  It was later renamed Veterans’ Day and broadened into a national holiday saluting all who have served in the US armed forces.

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