Americans honored the nation's troops Tuesday in commemoration of Veterans Day.
President Bush arrived in New York to formally rededicate the Intrepid museum in honor of Veterans Day, and thousands of visitors gathered at the aircraft carrier's newly rebuilt pier on Manhattan's West Side.
"Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you must," Bush said.
The president spoke in the shadow of the Intrepid and near the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, where sailors and marines peered down on the ceremony from the ship's deck. After his speech, astronauts Scott Carpenter and Buzz Aldrin helped the president toss a wreath into the Hudson River as a bugler played "Taps."
Before the speech, Bush told reporters that one veteran in particular — his father, a World War II pilot — had inspired him.
"I was raised by a veteran. I appreciate the commitment to our country that the veterans have made," he said. "Our nation is blessed because our liberties have been defended by brave men and women in the past and we are blessed to have brave men and women defend our liberties today."
In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama and Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs in combat, placed a wreath at the bronze soldiers memorial between the Field Museum and Soldier Field in Chicago.
Obama praised "the extraordinary service and selfless sacrifice of our nation's veterans" who have "defended the American people and stood up for American values" in a statement.
"Since 9/11, a new generation of American heroes has borne a heavy load in facing down the threats of the 21st century, and their families have been asked to bear the painful absence of a loved one. These Americans are the best and bravest among us, and they are all in our thoughts and prayers," he added.
At Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Dick Cheney placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, where he hailed past and present U.S. troops as the backbone of a country and a force for "liberty, justice and peace" around the world.
"No single military power in history has done greater good, shown greater courage, liberated more people, or upheld higher standards of decency and valor than the armed forces of the United States of America," Cheney said. "That is a legacy to be proud of, and those who contributed to it must never be taken for granted."
A crowd of more than 400 people gathered under a white tent at the Delaware War Memorial, at the foot of the bridge joining Delaware and New Jersey, to hear Vice President-elect Joe Biden speak with Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
Across the nation, flags were placed on the gravesites of veterans by volunteers, including Anessah Tookes, a 15-year-old member of the of the Junior Girls of the VFW Post No. 379 in Yakima, Wash., who honored the fallen troops laid to rest at the city's Tahoma Cemetery.
Veterans are increasingly looking to the Internet to stay connected, and the American Legion launched a social networking site Tuesday called CommunityofVeterans.org to reach out to younger vets of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United States first recognized Nov. 11 as a day to honor veterans in 1938, the 20th anniversary of the official end of World War I. It was called Armistice Day.
A movement arose in the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War to expand the holiday to honor all veterans instead of only those from the first world war. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a distinguished World War II veteran, signed a document to rename Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Except for seven years during the Vietnam War, when the holiday was observed on the last Monday of November, it has been observed on Nov. 11.
In honor of the federal holiday, post offices and banks are closed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.