President Biden visits Arlington to honor veterans, fallen service members on Memorial Day

President Joe Biden led commemorations of Memorial Day at a ceremony honoring fallen US service members at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, calling on Americans to remember the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in combat.

“If we forget what they sacrificed, what they made so that our nation might endure, strong, free and united, then we forget who we are,” Biden said. “Today, we renew our sacred vow — a simple vow — to remember.”

Biden started Memorial Day by visiting the grave of his late son Beau Biden to mark the seventh anniversary of his death.

Beau, a veteran of the Iraq war and the former attorney general of Delaware, died at age 46 from brain cancer on May 30, 2015. He is buried at Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington.

While Beau Biden did not die in the line of duty, the president reflected on his service Monday, saying, “It always feels to me on Memorial Day that I see him not as he was the last time I held his hand, but the day I pinned the bars on him.”

“They chose a life of purpose. [It] sounds corny like a Memorial Day speech but I mean from the bottom of my heart they chose a life of purpose and mission. Above all, they believed in duty. They believed in honor. They believed in their country. And still today we are free because they were brave. We live by the light, the flame of liberty they kept burning.”

Biden later highlighted what he called a “truly sacred” obligation to protect US service members.

“The only truly sacred obligation we have is to prepare and equip those women and men we send into harm’s way and care for them and their families when they return home, and when they don’t,” he said. “This is an obligation that unites America, brings us together to make sure that women and men who were willing to lay down their lives for us [have] the very best possible return.”

The president also spoke about the war in Ukraine, casting those fighting the Russian invasion there as part of the same global fight.

“Freedom has never been free,” he said. “Democracy has always required champions. Today, in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are on the front lines fighting to save their nation. But their fight is part of a larger fight that unites all people — it’s a fight that so many of the patriots whose eternal rest is here in these hallowed grounds are part of. It’s a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression.”

Before heading to the cemetery, the president and first lady Jill Biden hosted a breakfast in the East Room of the White House with members of veterans, military service and military families groups, senior Defense Department officials, and other administration officials.



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