/PRNewswire/ -- On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki called on Americans to honor the 48 million men and women -- including America's 23 million living Veterans -- who have served our Nation in uniform.
"Americans come together today to honor and thank those who have safeguarded our Nation both in peace and war," said Secretary Shinseki. "Veterans Day is a time to renew our national resolve to care for those who have borne the battle. Our character as a country is revealed through the honor we accord them and measured by the respect with which we care for them."
Shinseki joined President Obama, military officials and leaders of the major Veterans organizations at a public wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m. Following the ceremony, VA hosted an observance program in Arlington's amphitheater.
"President Obama has called for a Department of Veterans Affairs that is Veteran-centric, results-oriented, and forward-looking," said Shinseki. "We are privileged and honored to have that mission, and I am proud of the 298,000 great Americans who come to work every day to serve Veterans, over 30 percent of them Veterans themselves."
Americans attend programs and ceremonies honoring Veterans at many VA facilities across the country on Veterans Day. In some locations, Veterans and VA employees participate in programs conducted by civic and Veterans organizations. For a list of Veterans Day regional observances, visit www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/regsites.asp.
"We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America," President Barack Obama said in his Veterans Day proclamation. "We reflect upon the invaluable contributions of our country's Veterans and reaffirm our commitment to provide them and their families with the essential support they were promised and have earned."
Memorial Day is a time to commemorate deceased military members, especially those who have died during military service. Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor the men and women who have worn the uniform and thank living Veterans for their service.
"In partnership with Congress, Veteran service organizations and the American people, we will ensure that America's legacy is one of unwavering commitment and compassionate care for its Veterans," said Shinseki.
Since the beginning of November, VA's Web site has hosted oral histories of Veterans from every state and some territories produced by the Library of Congress in its Veterans History Project. Each day leading up to Veterans Day, five additional Veterans from different states have recounted their military experiences on the VA Web site, www.va.gov.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued America's first Veterans Day proclamation. The Veterans Day observance has evolved over the years. America's custom of observing the end of World War I in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month became a legal holiday known as Armistice Day in 1938.
In recognition of military service members' sacrifices in World War II and Korea, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day so that, as President Eisenhower said, a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the Veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation.
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