Communities across the country recognized Armed Forces Day this past weekend, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta marked the occasion as well by praising their service while discussing the troops' further role in Afghanistan, American Forces Press Service reports.

In particular, Panetta pointed to this weekend's NATO conference in Chicago where the world's leaders discussed the plans for the future of the embattled country. Though the war has worn on for over a decade, he reiterated the importance to leave the right way so that the work of the Armed Forces is maintained for years to come.

"Our goal is clear – to ensure that Afghanistan will never again serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against our homeland," Panetta said in a statement. "To do that, we have to build an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself."

While Panetta was praising the work of soldiers in Afghanistan, others across the country were doing the same. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, for instance, town officials held their annual parade honoring all servicemembers, not just those currently stationed overseas, The Times-Tribune reports.