By Ellen Wulfhorst
(Reuters) - The United States marked Veterans Day on Monday with ceremonies across the nation, from small-town parades honoring those who served in the armed forces to the president marking the day at Arlington National Cemetery.
President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in a ceremony in which he called veterans "those who fought for our freedom and stood sentry for our security."
"On this hillside of solemn remembrance, in veterans' halls and in proud parades across America, we join as one people to honor a debt we can never fully repay," Obama said.
"In the life of our nation across every generation, there are those who stand apart," he said. "They step up, they raise their hands, they take that oath, they put on the uniform and they put their lives on the line."
The president singled out World War Two U.S. Army veteran Richard Overton, who at 107 is believed to be the nation's oldest surviving veteran. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Overton, of East Austin, Texas, during breakfast, the White House said in a statement.
At Arlington, Overton stood and smiled as the audience at the ceremony applauded.
"He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima where he said, 'I only got out of there by the grace of God,'" the president said.
In New York City, a parade with some 20,000 marchers was headed by retired Army General Ann Dunwoody, the nation's first female four-star general.
Hundreds of veterans were expected to gather at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, on board the U.S.S. Intrepid, for an afternoon ceremony to feature the laying of two wreaths in the Hudson River.
Across the country, a parade honoring veterans was held in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and others were planned in Jacksonville, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; and San Diego, California.
Veterans in Keene, New Hampshire were feted with an honorary breakfast, those in Telluride, Colorado were being given an honorary dinner and a lighted evening parade was scheduled in Douglasville, Georgia.
In Vernal Utah, the American Legion's Women's Auxiliary was planning to donate a gift basket with handmade quilts and other goods to the first baby born on or closest to Veterans Day at the local hospital.
The purpose is to raise awareness of Veterans Day, organizers said.
(Editing by Diane Craft)