WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden hailed the sacrifice of generations of American soldiers who “dared and gave their all” in fighting for their country and called on Americans to make sure their “sacrifice was not vain” during Memorial Day celebrations at Arlington National Cemetery.
Biden was joined in the traditional wreath-laying ceremony by First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Harris’ husband Douglas Emhoff for the 155th National Memorial Day celebration. He had a moment of contemplation at the wreath, which was adorned with flowers and a red, white and blue bow, then bowed his head in prayer.
“We must never forget the price that was paid to protect our democracy,” Biden said later in a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater. “We must never forget the lives these flags, flowers and marble markers represent.”
“Every year we remember,” he said. “And every year it never gets easier.”
Monday’s federal holiday honoring fallen US service members came a day after Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a final agreement on a deal that would raise the US debt ceiling and now awaits congressional approval.
As it stands, the deal would keep non-military spending roughly flat in fiscal year 2024 and increase it by 1% the following year. The measure would allow for defense growth of 3% that year, to $886 billion, and then 1% the following year, to $895 billion.
Biden is proud that his Democratic administration oversaw a period of relative peace for the US military after two decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It’s been nearly 21 months since Biden ended America’s longest war, in Afghanistan, delivering on his campaign promise to end a 20-year-old “eternal war” that has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 US military.
The war in Afghanistan, however, ended chaotically and murderously on Biden’s watch in August 2021, with critics attacking the administration’s handling of the evacuation of some 120,000 U.S., Afghan and other citizens as wrong. planned and poorly executed.
The Biden administration released a tally of the war’s final days last month, largely blaming his Republican predecessor, President Donald Trump, and saying Biden was “severely constrained” by Trump’s decisions.
The United States now finds itself leading a coalition of allies pouring tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid into Ukraine as it tries to repel the Russian invasion, which appears to be no have no end in sight.
While making clear he does not want US troops to enter the conflict, Biden said he views the Russian effort to seize territory as an affront to international standards and pledged to help Kiev win, sending in artillery, tanks and drones and recently agreeing to allow the allies to train the Ukrainian army on American F-16 planes.
Biden linked the sacrifices of some 400,000 Americans buried in Arlington to the work of American troops deployed around the world today, saying the impact of the fallen men and women ‘goes far beyond those silent stones’ in the cemetery solemn.
“We see the strength of our NATO alliance built from the bonds that were forged in the fires of two world wars,” Biden said. “We see it in the troops who still stand sentry on the Korean Peninsula, preserving the peace alongside their allies. We see it in every base, every barracks, every ship around the world where our service members proudly serve and present themselves as a force for good in the world.
At the Arlington ceremony, Biden also spoke about the need to care for American service members on and off the battlefield.
“We have only one truly sacred obligation: to prepare those we send to harm and to care for them and their families when they return home and when they don’t,” Biden said.
The president noted that he had signed legislation to extend federal health services to millions of veterans who served on military bases where toxic smoke was billowing from huge fire pits, commonly used by the military until several years ago to dispose of chemicals, tires, plastics, and medical and medical products. human waste.
Ahead of Monday’s ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, Va., the Bidens hosted a White House breakfast for members of veterans’ organizations, military services and military family organizations, the surviving families of fallen U.S. soldiers, senior Department of Defense officials, and other administration officials.
The president and first lady returned home near Wilmington, Delaware, later Monday.