"Let us rededicate ourselves to keep a sacred trust with all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America: that America will serve you as well as you have served your country," Obama said in a statement. "As your next commander in chief, I promise to work every single day to keep that sacred trust with all who have served."
One week after winning the presidential election, Obama took a brief break from his primary tasks of mapping out his administration and monitoring the economic crisis to mark Veterans Day at the bronze soldiers memorial between the Field Museum and Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Illinois senator, who will inherit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from President Bush, was accompanied by Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost her legs in combat. She later ran unsuccessfully for Congress and now is the Illinois governor's veterans affairs director.
On a brisk autumn day, Obama moved a pre-positioned wreath a few feet closer to the front of the memorial that bore the phrase "dedicated to the defenders of our liberty." He and Duckworth bowed their heads briefly and then each saluted.
In his statement Obama praised "the extraordinary service and selfless sacrifice of our nation's veterans" who have "defended the American people and stood up for American values."
"Since 9/11, a new generation of American heroes has borne a heavy load in facing down the threats of the 21st century, and their families have been asked to bear the painful absence of a loved one. These Americans are the best and bravest among us, and they are all in our thoughts and prayers," he added.
Aside from the short public appearance, Obama as huddling in private with top advisers planning for the transfer of presidential power in January. His aides say no Cabinet positions are to be announced this week, though White House staff positions may come later in the week.