FORT BENNING, Ga. - American veterans deserve the nation's deepest appreciation and respect, according to President Barack Obama's Veterans Day proclamation. "Our nation's servicemen and women are our best and brightest, enlisting in times of peace and war, serving with honor under the most difficult circumstances and making sacrifices that many of us cannot begin to imagine."

LaFaye Dellinger, mayor of Smiths Station, Ala., told the audience at Fort Benning's Veterans Day Ceremony Wednesday it wasn't possible to express how much she appreciated their service.

"It is because of men and women like you ... that we still have the freedom of worship, the freedom of speech, the freedom of whatever we want to do as long as it doesn't impart on someone else's freedom," she said. "From the bottom of my heart, I want to say 'thank you.'"

Maneuver Center of Excellence Commanding General MG Michael Ferriter and CSM Earl Rice laid a wreath in honor of fallen troops.

COL(R) Ralph Puckett, the former honorary colonel for the 75th Ranger Regiment, and SSG Nicholas Bailey, a drill sergeant who was wounded while deployed, assisted with the wreath ceremony. Following a moment of silence, the MCOE band played Taps.

George Ward, 83, who deployed to Burma as an 18-year-old, served almost nine years in the Army as a military police officer. He said military pride keeps him returning to the Fort Benning ceremony each year.

LTG(R) Ben Register, who served in the Korean War and deployed to Vietnam twice, also attended the ceremony.

He said he identifies with the sacrifice Soldiers and their families make.

"I just say thank you for their commitment and their repeated deployments," Register said. "And a special thanks to their families because I know they serve too."

Former Fort Benning Commander MG(R) Ken Leuer, who served 33 years in the Army, said he can remember celebrating veterans even as a young boy because his father was a World War I veteran.

"(Veterans Day is) about freedom, about paying respect to those who gave us our freedom," he said.

"It's a great time for reflection and appreciation," Register said. "I think it brings the focus to what the price of freedom really is and how tough it is to keep it."

It's freedom, and the pursuit of which, said Columbus City Councilman Wayne Anthony, that links American service members to world events like the protests in Iran and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. "It was all for one word, for one cause," he said.