U.S. President Joe Biden paid tribute Sunday to the nation’s war dead on the eve of his first Memorial Day as the country’s commander-in-chief.
“We must remember the price that was paid for our liberties,” Biden said at the War Memorial Plaza near the Delaware Memorial Bridge. “We must remember the debt we owe those who have paid it, and the families left behind. My heart is torn in half by the grief.”
Biden delivered remarks on the sixth anniversary of the death of his son Beau, who served as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, including a tour of duty with U.S. forces in Iraq before dying of cancer in 2015.
“I know how much the loss hurts,” Biden said. “I know the black hole it leaves in the middle of your chest; it feels like you may get sucked into it and not come out.”
“If [Beau] were here, he would be here as well, paying his respects to all those who gave so much for our country,” Biden said.
“And I promise you the day will come when the mention of the name of your son or daughter, husband, wife — they will, in fact, bring not a tear to your eye, but a smile to your lips,” Biden said. “And I hope that day comes sooner than later.”
“Folks, you know, despite all the pain, I know the pride you feel in the loved one and -- that you lost and those who are still serving — the pride and the bravery in the service to our great American experiment.” he said.
“The American creed is the connective tissue that binds us,” Biden said. “It’s a long chain of patriots that come before us and those who will follow us in turn. That creed holds that the ideals that inspire people to service and that us — fill us with pride when we see our loved ones put on that uniform.”
“And our progress toward that creed together, as one nation united and preserved through their sacrifices, is the best and strongest memorial to their lives,” he said.
“And so, I hope -- I hope that the nation comes together,” he concluded. “We're not Democrats or Republicans today. We're Americans. We're Americans who have given their lives.”
The United States has commemorated Memorial Day to honor its war dead at the end of May since 1868 after the Civil War. The national holiday is now held on the last Monday in May of each year.
Outside Washington, to coincide with the holiday, flags are placed by the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery and at many of the other national cemeteries across the country, where many who served in the U.S. military are buried.
The holiday also marks the unofficial start of summer and what traditionally has been a busy travel season in the United States.