U.S. President Barack Obama has marked the first Veterans Day of his presidency with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony and speech at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.
The tradition honors Americans who have lost their lives in battle, and also the men and women who currently serve in the U.S. military.
At the ceremony Wednesday, the president said there is no tribute or praise that can match the sacrifice made by the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
The observance is one of many in the United States and around the world to mark the 91st anniversary of the cease-fire agreement that ended the battles of World War I. That agreement officially was reached on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, began the day by hosting a Veterans Day breakfast at the White House.
This day is known in Europe and elsewhere as Armistice or Remembrance Day.
In London, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth led an Armistice Day service at Westminster Abbey to pay tribute to the country’s war dead, marked by a traditional two-minute block of silence.
The ceremony was the first without Britain’s last remaining trio of World War I veterans living in the country. William Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch all died during 2009. The last remaining British veteran of World War One is 108-year-old Claude Choules, who lives in Perth, Australia.
Frank Woodruff Buckles, a resident of the U.S. state of West Virginia, is the last remaining American veteran of World War I. The 108-year-old served in the war as an ambulance driver in France.
One Canadian veteran from World War I is still alive – John Babcock, who was born in Ontario and now lives in the United States.
In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participated in a ceremony at France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during an early morning service. Ms. Merkel is the first German leader to observe Armistice Day in France.
The allied powers, which included France, Britain, Russia and the United States, defeated Germany and its smaller allies in the so-called “war to end all wars” that shattered Europe.
The holiday was known as Armistice Day in the United States until 1954, when then-President Dwight Eisenhower signed a measure changing it to Veterans Day. It was changed at the urging of veterans’ service organizations, which wanted the day to pay tribute to U.S. veterans of all wars.
The holiday comes as the United States continues fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama is reviewing the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, and is considering a request from the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan for what is reported to be up to 40,000 additional troops.