• During the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in the Memorial Amphitheater, the Period Dress Procession stands on stage to represent different wars starting with World War II up to the current conflicts and military branches on Nov. 11, 2011.

    Period Dress Procession

    During the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in the Memorial Amphitheater, the Period Dress Procession stands on stage to represent different wars starting with World War II up to the current conflicts and military...

  • President Barack H. Obama speaks during the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in the Memorial Amphitheater on Nov. 11, 2011.

    President Obama

    President Barack H. Obama speaks during the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in the Memorial Amphitheater on Nov. 11, 2011.

  • Representatives for the Survivors of Pearl Harbor take part in the Parade of Colors as they walk out of the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery during the National Veterans Day Observance ceremony on Nov. 11, 2011.

    Pearl Harbor Survivors

    Representatives for the Survivors of Pearl Harbor take part in the Parade of Colors as they walk out of the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery during the National Veterans Day Observance ceremony on Nov. 11, 2011.

ARLINGTON, Va. (Nov. 14, 2011) -- "To all our nation's veterans: Whether you fought in Salerno or Samarra, Khe Sanh or the Korengal, you are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served this country with honor and distinction," said President Barack Obama as he thanked them Nov. 11 at a Veterans Day observance in Arlington National Cemetery.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this century found spectators wrapped in blankets and huddling together during a breezy 50-degree Veterans Day Observance, watching as the president not only laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, but also gave remarks in the amphitheater.

Not all in attendance could call America home. In the second row from the back of the amphitheater, a brown uniform stood out among the rest of the crowd, proudly bearing medals earned. Warrant Officer 2nd Class Keith Potter, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment British Army, came to America especially for the Veterans Day ceremony.

Explaining this was only his second time out of Britain for the celebrations, it was his first time ever witnessing the events that take place at Arlington National Cemetery for Veterans Day.

"We normally have a parade right after the queen has laid the wreath at Cenotaph in London," said Potter. "The president, it was fantastic to see him and all the veterans. To see all these guys is brilliant."

A 21-cannon salute marked the arrival in the cemetery of Obama accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama in time to lay the wreath at precisely 11 a.m.

Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commanding general of the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, escorted the president front and center where Sgt. 1st Class Chad Stackpole, sergeant of the guard, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), waited with the wreath. Obama took hold of the wreath, and with Stackpole, placed the wreath on the stand in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.

Linnington, along with Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, hosted the presidential Veterans Day observance.

In support of the ceremony, The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," provided music. Jim Benson, Veterans Affairs representative, was master of ceremonies for the day, giving a brief history and introducing the other speakers, retired Navy Capt. Russell Vowinkel, commander-in-chief of the Military Order of the World Wars, Shinseki and Obama.

During the parade of colors, various veteran associations carried their organization flags into the amphitheater, each matched with an American flag. Lining the sides of the amphitheater, the colors were vibrant and paid tribute to decades of veterans who fought in wars long ago.

"Over the past decade, more than five million Americans have worn the uniform of the United States armed forces," said Obama. "Of these, three million stepped forward after the attacks of September 11th, knowing full well that they could be sent into harm's way."

He went on to praise the work that has been done in the past decade, that those serving currently have fought in dangerous places and because of their efforts, "we can stand here today and say with confidence -- the tide of war is receding." The president emphasized that by year's end the conflict in Iraq will finally be over.

"Only 27-years-old on average, these young men and women have shattered the false myth of their generation's apathy, for they came of age in an era when so many institutions failed to live up to their responsibilities," continued Obama. "But they chose to serve a cause greater than themselves. They saw their country threatened. But they signed up to confront that threat and they've earned their place among the greatest of generations."

He went on to talk about the great service veterans have accomplished in their time with the armed forces, and asked those not in uniform to help veterans as they come out of the military and continue to serve America in other ways.

"If there is anything our veterans teach us, it's that there is no threat we cannot meet; there is no challenge we cannot overcome. America's best days are still ahead," Obama said.

(Chelsea Place writes for the Pentagram newspaper, serving Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.)

Page last updated Mon November 14th, 2011 at 00:00