- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

President Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday as part of Veterans Day events across the country honoring U.S. service members who have sacrificed to preserve America’s freedom.

“We honor your service. We are forever grateful,” Mr. Obama said while standing in a cold drizzle with the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns in the background. “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.”

The president, dressed in a dark suit and overcoat, also participated in the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the cemetery in Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama began the day by hosting a Veterans Day breakfast in the East Room of the White House.

Mrs. Obama joined Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and wife Jill Biden at the cemetery. The first couple concluded their visit by visiting a section of the cemetery reserved for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Memorial Day commemorates those military members who are deceased, Veterans Day also provides an opportunity to thank America’s 23 million living veterans for their service.

“Veterans Day is a time to renew our national resolve to care for those who have borne the battle,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

“Our character as a country is revealed through the honor we accord them and measured by the respect with which we care for them,” Mr. Shinseki said.

The first Veterans Day proclamation was issued in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the nation to pay homage to veterans of all wars. Until then, Nov. 11 had been celebrated as Armistice Day, marking the signing of World War I armistice in Compiegne, France. Armistice Day still is celebrated on Nov. 11 in France and Belgium.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Coast Guard Memorial in Arlington National Ceremony.

Ms. Napolitano acknowledged the recent “tragic events” at Fort Hood and said it “reminds us of the tremendous sacrifice those in uniform make every day for our nation.”

Today we pay our deepest respect to the courageous men and women of who have served the U.S. Armed Forces and who currently risk their lives at home and abroad,” Ms. Napolitano said.

The national holiday also was an opportunity for Americans across the country to visit the icon Washington memorials honoring millions of U.S. military veterans, including the National World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill used the day off to return to their home states to honor veterans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, returned to San Francisco to dedicate an overlook to the San Francisco National Cemetery, in which 30,000 Americans are buried.

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