ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, July 27, 2012) -- The Army, along with the other services and the nation, today observed the 59th anniversary of the armistice agreement ending the Korean War, June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, and honored the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and other veterans who served.

The ceremony took place at Arlington National Cemetery with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, tributes to Korean War veterans at Memorial Amphitheater, musical honors by the U.S. Army Band, Pershing's Own, and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, Fife and Drum Corps, and participation by other Soldiers from joint service color guard and honor platoons.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who served in the Army during the 1960s, helped lay the wreath and later spoke at Memorial Amphitheater. "This is an opportunity to remember and to pay tribute to the 54,246 U.S. servicemembers who lost their lives in the Korean War," he said. "It's also an opportunity to celebrate the heroism, the sacrifices, the sheer grit and determination of the bravery of thousands of Americans who fought in the Korean War."

David W. Mills also spoke during tributes to fellow Korean War veterans at Memorial Amphitheater. Mills, a rifleman with the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in 1953, was wounded and taken prisoner. On the day of the armistice signing on July 27, 1953, he was still being held in a Chinese POW camp.

He explained what happened: "On that day, the guards acted friendlier and camp conditions improved but we were still uncertain about our fate. A few weeks later we were notified that an agreement had been reached and that we would soon be transported for repatriation. It was the happiest day in my young, 17 year old life."

Many other veterans who didn't partake in the speeches were at the ceremonies today.

Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Raymond J. Moran, 82, who attended the wreath laying, was serving in Tokyo when war broke out June 25, 1950. A few weeks later, he and other Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, landed in Pohang, South Korea, where they fought their way to Taegu. Moran saw heavy fighting and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He went on to serve again in combat in Vietnam, Cambodia and during Operation Desert Storm. He said he was proud, yet humbled, to be present at the 59th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting.

Leroy Brooks, an African-American who grew up in Washington, D.C., served in Korea in 1952. He was with the 31st Infantry Regiment and fought as an infantryman in the area around the 38th Parallel. He said the "happiest part of the war was making it home alive."

George Lally, 80, served in Korea in1953 with the 3rd Infantry Division. He recalls July 27, 1953, while serving on the fighting lines north of Seoul. "I heard about the armistice but didn't believe it was true," he said, adding that it was "hot like today. Korea is always hot in summer and very cold in winter. We were fighting alongside the Turks. The Reds are afraid of the Turks, you know, so we were happy to be near them, but the happiest day was when the fighting stopped," he added.