November 11, 2014 / 6:19 PM / 3 years ago

Ceremonies, concerts mark Veterans Day in U.S. capital

U.S. Marine combat veteran Charlie Wittwer pays his respects at the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veteran's Day in Washington, November 11, 2014.Larry Downing

ARLINGTON Va. (Reuters) - The U.S. capital marked Veterans Day on Tuesday with ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery where Vice President Joe Biden said the 23 million U.S. veterans were the backbone of the nation.

The commemoration at Arlington, where more than 40,000 military personnel and their families are buried, was part of events that include a giant concert in Washington featuring such stars as Bruce Springsteen and Rihanna.

A bugler played "Taps" after Biden laid a wreath at Arlington's Tomb of the Unknowns. Biden later told hundreds of onlookers, many of them veterans, that their service had made them "the most tested of all Americans."

"You are not only the heart and soul but you are the very spine of this nation," he said.

The ceremony began at 11 a.m., marking the hour fighting ended in World War One on Nov. 11, 1918. The commemoration included music by the U.S. Marine Band and the singing of "God Bless America."

President Barack Obama, who is on a trip to Asia, said in a proclamation that his administration was working to end homelessness among veterans and was committed to providing them healthcare and access to education.

"We will never forget the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice and all those who have not yet returned home," he said.

A U.S. military World War Two veteran is greeted by Lake Braddock School students from Virginia as they welcomed 22 veterans from the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight visiting the National World War II Memorial on Veteran's Day in Washington, November 11, 2014.Larry Downing

The ceremony, under cloudless skies and amid autumn foliage, drew a scattering of uniformed military personnel and many veterans and their families.

"It's good that I can be here for the ones who can't, and remember the ones who didn't come home," said Army veteran Ray Footland, 44, from Pasadena, Maryland.

Slideshow (8 Images)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also spoke at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He said military personnel who had served since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had told him "they don't need a handout or a hand up.

"They just want the opportunity to continue to prove themselves," he said.

The main Washington Veterans Day event is the three-hour "Concert for Valor" on the National Mall, sponsored by Starbucks Corp and HBO, in the evening. It is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Entertainers include Springsteen, Rihanna, Carrie Underwood, Eminem and Metallica. Onstage appearances are set for such actors as Bryan Cranston and Jamie Foxx.

Some celebrities, including Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey, will speak via recorded tributes. The concert will be broadcast by HBO.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech

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