U.S. President Donald Trump honored the nation's veterans Saturday, saying in a video message they are "this country's greatest national treasure."
"On this wonderful Veterans Day, I want to express the incredible gratitude of the entire American nation to the millions and millions of veterans that bravely defended our nation in uniform, and the strong families whose unwavering love and support allowed you to answer the call of duty," Trump said in the video that was posted on Twitter.
"We applaud your service, salute your sacrifice, and pay tribute to your profound patriotism and love of our country." #VeteransDay," a White House Twitter posting said.
The president's recorded remarks were released while he is on 12-day, five-nation Asian tour.
Vice President Mike Pence participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington Nation Cemetery just south of Washington to honor the nation's 20 million military veterans.
“There is a day in the spring when we remember those who served and did not come home, but today, Veteran’s Day, is the day when all across America, in gatherings large and small, we pause to remember those who served and did come home."
Pence and several dozen volunteers gathered earlier at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington to give it a holiday cleaning. Orange buckets in hand, Pence and his wife spent about 40 minutes wiping down the face of the memorial's wall engraved with the names of the more than 58,000 U.S. service members who died in the Vietnam War. The group was joined by National Park ranger James Pierce, who lost a leg while serving with the North Carolina Army National Guard in Afghanistan.
First Lady Melania Trump paid tribute to veterans Friday as she visited military families at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. She made a refueling stop there on a flight back to Washington after spending the last week with her husband in China and South Korea.
Origin of holiday
Service members are honored annually on Veterans Day, November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. It was originally proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day in 1919 and became a U.S. federal holiday in 1938. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954 that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day so that all veterans could be honored.
Of the 20 million veterans in the U.S., more than 4.5 million receive some form of disability compensation from the federal government, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 609,000 veterans are classified as 100 percent disabled. Nearly 277,000 veterans receive pensions from the federal government.
Nearly 40,000 veterans are spending this Veterans Day without a home to live in, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates another 1.4 million veterans are at risk of being homeless.