LOS ANGELES – From sea to shining sea, the nation paid tribute to its members of the armed services Sunday.
Sunday marked the official commemoration of Veterans Day, but the federal holiday will be observed today.
President Barack Obama laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
In a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater, he said America will never forget the sacrifice made by its veterans and their families.
“No ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service,” the president said, adding that the country must commit every day “to serving you as well as you’ve served us.”
He spoke of the Sept. 11 generation, “who stepped forward when the towers fell, and in the years since have stepped into history, writing one of the greatest chapters in military service our country has ever known.”
Over the next few years, he said, more than 1 million service members will make the transition to civilian life. “As they come home, it falls to us, their fellow citizens, to be there for them and their families, not just now but always.”
Later, the president and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, greeted families in the cemetery’s Section 60, home to graves of service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In California, a war memorial cross that once stood on a rocky hilltop in a national park before being deemed unconstitutional and ordered removed was being resurrected in the stunningly stark Mojave Desert, marking the end of a long-standing legal dispute that had become entangled in patriotism and religion.
Henry Sandoz, who cared for the original cross as part of a promise to a dying World War I veteran, will rededicate the new, 7-foot steel cross on the same hilltop. The site is now in private hands as part of a land swap with the National Park Service that ended the legal battle.