Saturday marked the first of what will be three days of Veterans Day commemorations across the United States.
The holiday falls on a Sunday, and the federal observance is on Monday. It's the first such day honoring the men and women who served in uniform since the last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011.
It's also a chance to thank those who stormed the beaches during World War II — a population that is rapidly shrinking, with most of those former troops now in their 80s and 90s.
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At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, a steady stream of visitors arrived Saturday morning as the names of the 58,000 people on the wall were being read over a loudspeaker.
Some visitors took pictures, others made rubbings of names, and some left mementos: a leather jacket, a flag made out of construction paper, pictures of young soldiers and even several snow globes with an American eagle inside.
Alfred A. Atwood, 65, of Chattanooga, Tenn., was visiting the wall for the first time.
Atwood said he knows a number of people on the wall, but the one name he wanted to find Saturday was his friend Ronald L. Wright. When Atwood joined the Marines, Wright insisted on signing up, too.
On Saturday, he found Wright's name on panel 44E, row 60, and he ran his fingers over it, shaking his head.
"I'm still in the blocking stage. I want to go somewhere and sit down and think a minute," he said after seeing Wright's name. "All I can see when I was touching and reading his name was his mother's face telling me I got her son killed."
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At the National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass., on Cape Cod, about 1,000 people, including Cub Scouts and Gold Star Mothers, gathered on a crisp fall day for a short ceremony.
They then spread out to plant 56,000 flags amid the cemetery's flat gravestones, transforming the green landscape into a sea of fluttering red, white and blue.
Until last year, the cemetery did not permit flags or flag holders on graves. That changed under pressure from Paul Monti of Raynham, Mass., whose son, Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, was killed by Taliban fighters while trying to save a fellow soldier in 2006 in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor and is buried at the Bourne cemetery.
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Thousands of spectators are expected to line Fifth Avenue for New York City's Veterans Day Parade today.
Also marching will be the Navajo Code Talkers, who transmitted coded messages during WWII, and other veterans groups.
Some parade participants are collecting coat donations for Hurricane Sandy victims.