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A Day To Remember

Americans across the country are observing Veterans Day on Wednesday with wreath-laying, special services, and parades. The day, which marks the 80th anniversary of the end of World War I, also is being observed by European leaders.

One of the largest parades took place in Houston honoring Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, and the six other astronauts who returned to Earth Saturday after a nine-day mission in space. It featured, among other things, a hot-air balloon in the shape of a space shuttle.

Also in Texas, Dallas hosted its first-ever Veterans Day parade.

President Clinton observed Veterans Day by signing an increase in veterans' disability payments, extending priority health care to Gulf War veterans and creating a system for averting future combat-related health catastrophes.

Also, Mr. Clinton released $1.1 billion appropriated by Congress for the enhancement of military readiness. The funds will be used to beef up recruitment, cut the backlog of equipment awaiting maintenance, and purchase spare parts for Air Force and Navy aircraft.

The president took part in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Virginia and gave a brief speech on Iraq to leaders of veterans groups. He warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of possible military action if Iraq does not resume cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors.

At federal buildings this Veterans Day, Americans saw a black and white flag flying next to the American one. The banner - a silhouette of a prisoner behind barbed wire - honors prisoners of war and those still missing in action.

Larry Greer of the Defense Department says the action is intended to prick the American conscience on occasions such as Veterans Day.

Officials in Canada and northern New York are on the alert Wednesday as well for anti-abortion violence, which tends to increase around this day, billed by some abortion protestors as a Day of Remembrance for fetuses lost through abortion.

Queen Elizabeth and Jacques Chirac in Paris
In Paris on Wednesday, Britain's queen and France's president presided over what may be the last major anniversary of the Great War attended by veterans of the carnage.

The 80th anniversary of the moment the guns fell silent at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 was marked with pomp and ceremony at the grandest military site in Paris, Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe. Queen Elizabeth II and French President Jacques Chirac placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the arch.

A wreath was also placed at a statue of Georges Clemenceau, France's deeply respected World War I leader. With a nod to World War II, the queen unveiled a statue of Sir Winston Churchill on an avenue renamed the Avenue Winston Churhill.

Later in the day, the queen traveled to Ypres in Belgium, where she was joined by Belgian King Albert II in remembering the appalling losses from a four-year war of attrition against the Germans in the trenches there.

Germany's new leader, chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder, told Chirac he could not attend because his calendar was already full with creating a new government. Schroeder dismissed as "rubbish" reports that he wasn't attending because he wanted to avoid the past.

The Great War killed 13 million civilians and 8.5 million combatants. Germany lost an estimated 1.7 million soldiers; Britain lost more than 900,000; Italy 650,000; the United States 116,000. France was proportionally the hardest hit, with 1.3 million dead.