President Donald Trump paid tribute Monday — Memorial Day in the United States — to generations of the country’s fallen warriors.
“Theirs was a love more deep and more pure than most will ever know,” Trump said at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. “They marched into hell so that Americans could know the blessings of peace. They died so that freedom could live.”
He said the pride of family members in their loved ones is “shared by one really and truly grateful nation. Today, our whole country thanks you, embraces you and pledges to you, we will never forget our heroes.”
“To every family member of the fallen, I want you to know that the legacy of those you lost does not fade with time, but grows only more powerful,” he said. “Their legacy does not, like a voice in the distance, become a faint echo, but instead their legacy grows deeper, spreading further, touching more lives, reaching down through time and out across many generations. Through their sacrifice, your loved ones have achieved something very, very special — immortality.”
In Photos: Memorial Day
The U.S. leader saluted the memory of several of the fallen buried at Arlington as their family members listened to his address, and to two veterans of World War II who attended the ceremony — former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and 106-year-old Navy veteran Ray Chavez, the oldest U.S. survivor of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ahead of his speech, Trump laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the cemetery. Many of the people at the annual commemoration also walked to nearby grave sites to pause and reflect on the lost lives of their loved ones.
Earlier, Trump wished Americans “Happy Memorial Day,” saying “those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18 years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!”
Many Americans have the day off from work and school. The three-day weekend is seen as the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. Many families have picnics or take trips to beaches, parks or campgrounds.
Officially, Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, has been set aside to honor all who died during military service throughout U.S. history. Congress declared Memorial Day a national federal holiday in 1971. Observances around the country and in Washington are planned for the day.
Memorial Day began in 1865, just after the end of the Civil War, when a group of former slaves held what was seen as the first commemoration of the nation’s war dead.
The group exhumed the bodies of more that 250 Union soldiers from a mass grave at a Confederate prison camp in Charleston, South Carolina, and gave them a proper burial.
For more than 50 years, the holiday only remembered those killed in the Civil War. It was not until America’s entry into World War I that the tradition was expanded to include those killed in all wars.
On Sunday, the annual event known as Rolling Thunder, involving thousands of war veterans and others on motorcycles, rolled into Washington, passing the monuments on the National Mall, to honor U.S. soldiers missing in action in foreign wars. Their motorcycles can be heard, long before they are seen.
According to the website of Rolling Thunder’s Washington chapter, the ride is “an actual demonstration/protest to bring awareness and accountability” to the prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action who have been left behind.
Rolling Thunder’s motto is: “We will not forget.”