In a Memorial Day address at the nation’s most prominent cemetery for its war dead, President Barack Obama memorialized “fallen patriots” and praised troops for bringing the United States to “a pivotal moment”: an end to war in Afghanistan.
At Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, Obama placed a commemorative wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“For more than 12 years, men and women have borne the burden of our nation’s security” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama told military officials, dignitaries and others assembled at the gleaming white monument. Because of their service, he said, “now we’re at a pivotal moment. Our troops are coming home. Our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end,” he said, to a wave of applause.
Obama had returned early Monday from a surprise trip to Afghanistan to meet with U.S. troops. On Sunday, he told them military gains there have "come at a heavy price….
“That includes nearly 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice, that last, full measure of devotion, right here in Afghanistan," Obama said.
Observances Monday include parades and other events to honor fallen heroes in cities and towns across the country.
Many Americans have the day off from work and school, celebrating with picnics or trips to the beach, parks or campgrounds. The three-day weekend is seen as the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.
Earlier Sunday, thousands of motorcycle riders rolled through Washington for the annual Rolling Thunder rally to call attention to prisoners of war and those missing in action.