LOS ANGELES — From sea to shining sea, the nation paid tribute to its members of the armed services Sunday, both with somber traditions such as a Virginia wreath-laying ceremony attended by President Barack Obama to honor those who didn’t make it back from active duty, and more lighthearted perks including red-carpet treatment at Las Vegas casinos for those who did.
In California, a long legal case drew to a close as a war memorial cross that had been deemed unconstitutional was being resurrected Sunday in the Mojave desert, capping a landmark case for veterans fighting similar battles on public lands.
Sunday marked the official commemoration of Veterans Day, but the federal holiday will be observed today.
Storm-ravaged New York hosted the country’s largest Veterans Day parade with turnout sparse along portions of the 30-block route along Fifth Avenue.
Standing in warm fall sunshine, officials said veterans should be honored and remembered more than just one day a year.
“This nation has a special obligation to take care of you,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the crowd.
Several officials also made a note of mentioning Vietnam veterans. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
One Vietnam vet, 66-year-old Laurence Lynch of New York, said simply, “It’s about time. It’s about time.”
Along a number of blocks of the parade route, just a few dozen spectators were lined along the barricades.
Candice and Jeffrey Stark stood nearly alone on one stretch, waving tiny American flags. “We are shocked,” Candice Stark said. “Very disappointed and terribly appalled. Don’t get me started!”
The Long Island couple was among the many residents displaced by the storm. The military has been very visible in the Sandy cleanup, so the Starks said they went to the parade to show their appreciation.
Chicago’s National Veterans Art Museum unveiled its latest exhibit called “Welcome Home” as it celebrated its grand reopening in a new location.
“‘Welcome home’ is the customary message given to soldiers returning from war,” a museum statement said. “After this initial greeting, familiarity dissolves and the traumas of war surface. Veterans set out to relearn the world they left behind, and their family meets a transformed person.”
The exhibit is part of a series that examines the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the rising need for mental health care for returning veterans
The museum has more than 2,500 works of veterans’ art with the mission of inspiring greater understanding of the real impact of war with an emphasis on Vietnam. The museum focuses art inspired by combat and created by veterans.
A Las Vegas casino rolled out the red carpet for some 60 injured veterans in a special Veterans Day weekend trip.
The annual “Salute to the Troops” weekend started with free American Airlines flights for veterans and their guests and a welcoming committee of MGM Resorts employees Thursday.
Employees held welcome signs, waved flags and chanted “USA” as the honored guests arrived.
MGM Resorts is hosting the veterans free at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, and treating them to a variety of attractions and shows during the five-day trip that ends today.
Their itinerary includes a ventriloquist show, a trip to the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage, and the Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base.