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U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to the nation's veterans and their families during the Memorial Day holiday, as communities across the country host their own festivities.
President Obama joined his wife and top military commanders under the midday sun to solemnly place a wreath of flowers at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The memorial at Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington is dedicated to the U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified.
Speaking to a crowd of veterans, their families and other spectators, Mr. Obama noted this was the first Memorial Day in nine years without U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. "After a decade under the dark clouds of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," Obama said.
But the president emphasized how he understands that the end of U.S. wars abroad will hold little comfort for the relatives of the fallen. "Especially for those who have lost a loved one, this chapter will remain open long after the guns have fallen silent," he said.
Half a world away in Kabul, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan General John Allen held a memorial service for all troops that have died there since the start of the war.
General Allen, who also leads the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, read the letter of a young Marine who wrote to his parents before his death by a homemade bomb earlier this year. "We remember his life and his words, for they speak resoundingly and timelessly for our fallen brothers and sisters-in-arms," he said,
More than 6,400 U.S. service members have died in the Afghan and Iraq wars following the 2001 terror attacks on the United States.
This is the 145th anniversary of the large-scale observance, originally called Decoration Day, that took place in the United States three years after the country's civil war ended with more than 600,000 casualties.