President Joe Biden on Memorial Day visited Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivered remarks.
It’s a customary tradition for U.S. presidents to mark the holiday, which is designated for honoring U.S. troops who lost their lives while serving their country.
Biden was joined in the wreath-laying ceremony by 20 ceremonial troops from five military branches, the 20-member U.S. Army band, and the nine-member Joint Service Color Guard.
With Biden were Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris.
The ceremony is wordless; Biden laid the wreath as the band played. He made the sign of the cross afterward.
Biden then delivered a speech at the cemetery’s amphitheater, telling those gathered that Memorial Day is “a sacred ritual” to reflect and remember those who gave up their lives, or “a day when pain and pride are mixed together.”
“Folks of those who have lost a loved one in the service to our country, if your loved one is missing or unaccounted for, I know the ceremony reopens that black hole in the center of your chest that sucks you in and suffocates you,” Biden said. “For so many of you, the hurt is wrapped around the knowledge that your loved one is part of something bigger than all of us. They chose a life of purpose. It sounds corny, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. They chose a purpose. They had a mission, and above all, they believed in duty. They believed in honor. They believed in their country. Today we are free because they were brave.
“To be here today, soon after that joyful celebration at the academy, is a bracing reminder of all that we ask of our service members and their families. For it’s on the strong shoulders and noble spirits of our service members that her freedom is built, democracy sustained.”
The president and First Lady Jill Biden also participated on May 30 in a tree-planting ceremony at the White House, which was held in honor of families of military members who died.
Other participants included Denise Reed, whose father, Army Sgt. Harold Reed, died in Vietnam.
Earlier in the day, Biden and his wife spent time at the grave of Beau Biden, the president’s eldest son, who died in 2015.
Beau Biden died from cancer. He’s buried in Delaware.