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Obama Honors US War Dead on Memorial Day

President Obama in wreathlaying ceremony at Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery May 27, 2013
President Obama in wreathlaying ceremony at Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery May 27, 2013
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VOA News
Americans are pausing Monday to honor the country's war dead, as the United States observes its annual Memorial Day.

U.S. President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington.  He recalled the service and character of several military personnel who were killed recently in overseas operations and have been buried at Arlington, the nation's most prominent military cemetery.

"Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  And just as we honor them, we hold their families close," Obama said.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, also hosted a breakfast at the White House for families of the fallen.

Communities across the country honored the war dead in a variety of ways.  In New York, Women Air Service Pilots who tested aircraft during World War II were commemorated.

Washington marked the holiday Sunday with thousands of motorcycle riders roaring into the national capital, a Rolling Thunder rally aimed at calling attention to prisoners of war and those missing in action.  

The first large-scale observance of what was originally called Decoration Day took place at Arlington cemetery in 1868, three years after the bloody U.S. Civil War that killed more than 600,000 people.

Many Americans have the day off from work and school, and the three-day weekend is seen as the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.  Many families have picnics or make trips to the beach, parks or campgrounds.
  • President Barack Obama speaks to a visitor at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
  • A couple photograph themselves amongst a sea of flags on Boston Common in Boston, May 26, 2013.
  • Motorcyclists ride across the Memorial Bridge into Washington during the annual Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" parade ahead of Monday's Memorial Day celebration, May 26, 2013.
  • A veteran takes photographs at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, May 26, 2013.
  • Jane Wick, left, and Mary Ann Chubirka wave flags while watching the College Point Memorial Day Parade in New York, May 26, 2013.
  • President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, left, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 27, 2013.
  • Faith Roesch, 6, participates in the the College Point Memorial Day Parade in New York, May 26, 2013.
  • A veteran visits Arlington National Cemetery during the Memorial Day weekend, May 25, 2013. (D. Manis/VOA)

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