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US pays tribute to war veterans

Americans marked Veterans Day with parades, speeches and military discounts in the centennial year of the start of the First World War.

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

At 11am - 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 honour the fallen.

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

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 US armed forces.

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 the First World WarI. Today was the 96th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war on November 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.

In Washington, Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Eminem and Metallica are headlining a free concert to raise awareness for issues affecting veterans. The Concert for Valour is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of fans.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Arlington National Cemetery, where he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony. Mr Biden singled out the generation of men and women who joined the armed forces after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said the 3.5 million men and women of that military generation made their decision with the near certainty they would be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. He noted that more than 2.6 million ended up serving in those wars.

He said that the United States has never before "asked so much over such a sustained period of an all-volunteer force."

Meanwhile, 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 the parade.

Many retailers around the US offered free goods and services to anyone who has served in the military, a trend that has been growing since the September 11, 2001, attacks. They included Starbucks coffee and even admission at select cinemas to see the Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt.

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