President Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivered remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to mark Memorial Day, emphasizing the “sacred ritual” of remembering the people who died in combat while defending the U.S.
“Today, as a nation, we undertake a sacred ritual to reflect and remember, because if we forget the lives of each of those silent markers represent — mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, children — if we forget what they sacrifice, what they made, so that our nation might endure, strong, free and united, then we forget who we are,” Biden said.
“Today, we renew our sacred vow. It’s a simple vow. To remember. To remember. Memorial Day is always a day where pain and pride are mixed together,” he later added.
Vice President Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley were alongside Biden at Arlington National Cemetery during the laying of the wreath. Milley and Austin both spoke before Biden.
During his remarks, Biden underscored the importance of democracy, pointing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which has been ongoing for more than three months.
“In this moment, when a war of aggression is once more being waged by Russia to snuff out the freedom, the democracy, the very culture and identity of neighboring Ukraine, we see so clearly all that’s at stake” Biden said.
“Freedom has never been free. Democracy has always required champions. Today, in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are on the front lines fighting to save their nation. But their fight is part of a larger fight that unites all people, is a fight that so many of the patriots whose eternal rest is here in these hallowed grounds, were part of. A battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between appetites and ambition of a few will forever seek to dominate the lives and liberties of many. A battle for essential democratic principles,” he added.
Monday marked Biden’s second time commemorating Memorial Day as president. The day also coincided with the seven-year anniversary of the death of his son, Beau Biden. The younger Biden, who was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, died in 2015 from brain cancer. He served in Iraq.
The president, first lady Jill Biden and members of their family visited Beau Biden’s grave in Delaware earlier on Monday.
President Biden mentioned the death of his son during his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery.
“If your loved one is missing or unaccounted for, I know this ceremony is reopened that black hole in the center of your chest that just pulls you in, suffocates you. I said — seven years ago today our son Major Beau Biden took his last breath at Walter Reed,” the president said.
“He didn’t die in the line of duty; he came home from Iraq with cancer. It was horrific cancer, stole us from him, stole him from us. But still, it always feels to me on Memorial Day, I see him. Not as he was the last time I held his hand, but the day I pinned bars on him as a second lieutenant. I see him with me down at the Delaware Memorial Bridge hugging all the Gold Star families” he later added.
Biden emphasized the mission servicemembers believe in when they enter combat, and he noted the important role military families play.
“They chose a life of purpose. They had a mission. And above all they believed in duty, they believed in honor, they believed in their country. And still today we are free because they were brave. We live by the light and the flame of liberty that they kept burning. And so a part of them is still with us no matter how long ago we lost them,” Biden said.
“To every Gold Star family, to every survivor and family member and caretaker, this grateful nation owes you as well as that person you lost,” Biden later added. “We can never repay the sacrifice. But we will never stop trying. We’ll never fail on our duty to remember. With their lives, they bought our freedom. And so with our lives, we must always live up to their example.”
In remarks before Biden, Austin recognized the more than 2,400 service members who died in the U.S.’s battle with Afghanistan, which officially ended in August when all American troops were pulled from the country.
The U.S.’s nearly 20-year military involvement in Afghanistan concluded with the death of 13 troops in a suicide bombing outside a gate at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
“In the year since we last gathered on this solemn day, America’s longest war has come to a close. And today, we remember the 2,461 American service members and personnel who fell in Afghanistan,” Austin said.
“And we remember all those who still carry the wounds of that war, to body and to soul. We hold them in our hearts, alongside the patriots across generations who gave their lives to defend us all,” he added.
Biden concluded his speech with an impassioned endorsement of democracy, arguing that while it is not perfect, it is worth fighting for.
“Today remember and we reaffirm, freedom is worth the sacrifice. Democracy is not perfect. It’s never been perfect. But it’s worth fighting for. If necessary, worth dying for,” he said.
Source: The Hill