President Barack Obama made the traditional Veterans Day presidential visit to Arlington National Cemetery to honor all who have served in the U.S. military.  The president surprised mourners on Wednesday by also visiting the gravesites of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, in a steady, light rain.  He stood with his hand over his heart as a bugler played Taps.

A short time later, the president gave a brief speech, honoring generations of Americans who have served in their country's armed forces.

"To our veterans, to the fallen and to their families - there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice," said President Obama.

On his first Veterans Day as president, Mr. Obama pledged to do right by Americans in uniform, veterans and their families.

"That is my message to all who serve in harm's way - to the husbands and wives back home doing the parenting of two, to the parents who watch their sons and daughters go off to war, and the children who wonder when mom and dad are coming home," said Mr. Obama. "To all our wounded warriors and to the families who laid a loved one to rest - America will not let you down."

Mr. Obama talked about the determination of America's military - past and present.  He paid tribute to the generations of men and women who, he said, fought for a set of ideals.

"Because they did, our country still stands; our founding principles still shine; nations around the world that once knew nothing but fear now know the blessings of freedom," said President Barack Obama. "That is why we fight - in hopes of a day when we no longer need to."

After he spoke, the president and Mrs. Obama made an unscheduled visit to the section of the cemetery where the dead from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried.  They spent several minutes walking among the headstones and talking with mourners.  

Mr. Obama gave his Veterans Day address one day after paying tribute to the victims of a mass shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.

Also on the president's agenda Wednesday was a meeting with his national security advisers to discuss America's war strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.