Nov 11, 4:03 PM EST

America marks Veterans Day with parades, freebies


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AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans marked Veterans Day on Tuesday with parades, speeches and military discounts, while in Europe the holiday known as Armistice Day held special meaning in the centennial year of the start of World War I.

Thousands of veterans and their supporters marched up Fifth Avenue in New York, home to the nation's oldest Veterans Day parade.

At 11 a.m. - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - a solemn hush fell over Manhattan's Madison Square Park as veterans laid wreaths under the Eternal Light Monument to honor the fallen.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who was a Marine lieutenant, served as grand marshal.

"I learned everything I know about leadership from my military service," Kelly said.

The parade featured a float carrying rapper Ice-T, who is an Army veteran, plus six military dogs and their handlers, all of whom have served in the U.S. armed forces.

Maylee Borg, 40, of Staten Island, said she brought her two daughters to show them "that we should support our veterans, because they supported us."

Her 13-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Borg, made a sign that read, "Land of the free, thanks to the brave."

Here is how the holiday was celebrated elsewhere around the country and overseas.

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ARMISTICE DAY

Europe marked Armistice Day with ceremonies and moments of silence as France opened an international memorial on a former battlefield. The events had special significance because this year is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Tuesday was the 96th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war on Nov. 11, 1918.

French President Francois Hollande placed a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier under Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Later, he inaugurated an international war memorial at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, in northern France, in the presence of German, British and Belgian officials. The Ring of Memory carries the names of 600,000 soldiers from over 40 countries who died in the region during the war. Names are listed alphabetically without their nationalities.

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CELEBRITY CONCERT

Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Eminem and Metallica were among the headliners for a free concert on the National Mall to raise awareness for issues affecting veterans, In Washington, D.C.

Tuesday's first-of-its-kind Concert for Valor is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of fans to the Mall. The Veterans Day event was spearheaded by Starbucks president Howard Schultz.

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VETERAN BONUSES

State officials in Ohio used the holiday to remind Iraq war veterans that time is running out to claim bonuses of up to $1,500. Ohio voters in 2009 approved a $200 million bond issue to fund bonuses for veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq war eras.

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VETERANS PERKS AND FREEBIES

Veterans Day is not only a time to honor those who have served in the military. For American businesses, it's also a time to back up that appreciation with a freebie.

Many national chains, as well as mom-and-pop retailers around the U.S., offered free goods and services to anyone who has served in the military, a trend that has been growing since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They included IHOP pancakes, Starbucks coffee and even admission at select theaters to see the World War II film "Fury," starring Brad Pitt.

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MILITARY GAY PRIDE

Massachusetts marked Veterans Day with commemorations around the state including a parade in Boston in which gay and transgender veterans were taking part for the first time. A recently formed group called OutVets said it expected up to 30 people to march in Tuesday afternoon's downtown parade.

Gov. Deval Patrick and other top officials gathered earlier at the Statehouse to express "gratitude, pride and support" for service members from Massachusetts.

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CHRISTIE HONORS THE FALLEN

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie attended an event at the Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown. The state-operated cemetery is the final resting place for more than 56,000 veterans and their family members.

Faculty and students in Monmouth University in West Long Branch were reading the names of troops killed during deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq since the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

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SERIOUS WORDS FROM A COMEDIAN

Comedian Bill Cosby urged hundreds in attendance at a Veterans Day ceremony in Philadelphia to "call out the name of someone who left their life for us" and remember those who died for their country.

Cosby told the crowd during a 20-minute address in front of the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors that "we don't forget about ours."

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