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Veterans Day: Biden says vets are 'spine' of America in visit to Arlington Cemetery

President Joe Biden participates in a wreath-laying ceremony on the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. on Veterans Day Thursday. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 11 (UPI) -- In observing Veterans Day on Thursday, President Joe Biden called American vets "the spine" of the country and said caring for them after they fought in wars and other conflicts is a lifelong responsibility.

Speaking during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the president said the nation owes veterans a debt of gratitude, and their sacrifices should never be forgotten.

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"Our veterans represent the best of America," he said. "You are the very spine of America; not just the backbone but the spine of this country. All of us owe you. So on Veterans Day, and every day we honor that great debt we recommit ourselves to keeping that sacred obligation as a nation and honoring what you have done."

Biden noted that many vets have been shaped by recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces withdrew in August after a constant 20-year presence.

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"Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Americans have served," he said. "So many are still serving today in harm's way and we cannot forget them. The American people are forever grateful and in awe of what you've accomplished."

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President Joe Biden pauses on Thursday after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Pool photo by Alex Brandon/UPI

Biden touched on recent announcements involving veterans, including an effort announced earlier Thursday to examine ties between military service and illnesses such as cancer.

Before his speech, Biden marked Veterans Day at the cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

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Memorial Day, at the end of May, honors service members who died during active service. Veterans Day recognizes all Americans who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

Veterans Day, which was once called Armistice Day, is always observed on Nov. 11, the day World War I ended in 1918. It's still referred to as Armistice Day in Europe.

The holiday was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October from 1971 until 1977, in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, until President Gerald Ford returned it to its original date.

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In New York City on Thursday, the Veterans Day Parade was once again an in-person event for the first time in two years -- with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

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"This year, we are back," Nick Angione, chairman of the United War Veterans Council, told WCBS-TV.

"The parade is the biggest time to really say, 'thank you,' and celebrate veterans on Veterans Day."

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