U.S. President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the "9/11 generation" of the country's armed forces, saluting their service in Afghanistan and Iraq during the "hard decade of war" since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
"It's fitting that we salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 generation -- the more than 5 million Americans who have worn the uniform over the past 10 years," Obama said.
"They were there, on duty, that September morning, having enlisted in a time of peace, but they instantly transitioned to a war footing. They're the millions of recruits who have stepped forward since, seeing their nation at war and saying, 'Send me.'"
In a speech before the national convention of the American Legion, the country's largest veterans' aid organization, Obama thanked the service members for "giving the Afghan people the opportunity to live free from terror,' for toppling Saddam Hussein, and for "delivering justice to [Al-Qaeda leader] Osama bin Laden."
Obama also said that the removal of remaining U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan "means relief from an unrelenting decade of operations."
He also honored the more than 6,200 members of the armed services who died during that period.
Obama plans to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks with an interfaith service and visits to the sites where planes struck in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.