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Memorial Day: Biden honors fallen US soldiers

May 28, 2024

US President Joe Biden marked Memorial Day by reminding Americans that "freedom has never been guaranteed." Donald Trump used the day to blast political rivals.

US President Joe Biden stands before two massive American flags as he delivers remarks from behind a lectern bearing the Great Presidential Seal of the United States at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C., a soldier is seen up close from behind in the foreground on May 27, 2024
'Freedom has never been guaranteed. Every generation has to earn it, fight for it, defend it,' said Biden in remarks delivered at Arlington National CemeteryImage: Ken Cedeno/REUTERS

US President Joe Biden marked Memorial Day by welcoming military leaders, veterans and Gold Star family members to the White House before delivering remarks at a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.

He also reached out to the governors of Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas, offering condolences for the 21 people killed and scores more injured by tornadoes this holiday weekend.

Memorial Day, a holiday honoring the sacrifices made by soldiers over the course of the nation's history, marks the beginning of summer in the US and has traditionally seen the president attend ceremonies at Arlington.

On Monday, Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the military cemetery, where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before delivering remarks to those in attendance.

Biden told attendees that America's service members had made great sacrifices in order that the US could strive toward becoming a "more perfect union," reminding them that this was what they had lived and died for.

"Freedom has never been guaranteed. Every generation has to earn it, fight for it, defend it," he said — referencing both the fight "between autocracy and democracy," and that "between the greed of a few, and the rights of many."

Biden: Memorial Day an opportunity to 'recommit to the future'

In his remarks, the president said: "On this day, we come together again to reflect, to remember, and above all, to recommit to the future they fought for… a future grounded in freedom, democracy, opportunity and equality. Not just for some, but for all."

A US Army Sergeant First Class kneels among the graves of deceased veterans at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. on May 27, 2024
The remains of some 400,000 veterans who fought in all of America's wars — from the Revolutionary War till today — are buried at Arlington Image: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/picture alliance

Biden also spoke of his son Beau, who died nine years ago this week of brain cancer. The president, who is steadfastly convinced that his son's illness was the result of his being stationed near a toxic burn pit while he served in the US Army in Iraq, pointed to the work his administration has done to benefit injured veterans.

"For too long, after fighting for our nation, these veterans had to fight to get the right health care… to get the benefits they had earned. Not anymore," he said, citing the PACT Act that automatically grants coverage to veterans for illnesses presumed linked to their military service.

Trump attacks rivals

Biden's political rival, Donald Trump, was also active on Memorial Day, posting messages on his Truth Social site as well as attending a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

The former president and presumptive Republican nominee posted a photo of himself standing before a red, white and blue wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which he visited twice during his presidency.

Shortly thereafter, Trump posted a rambling screed attacking his political enemies. "Happy Memorial Day to All, including the Human Scum that is working so hard to destroy our Once Great Country," it began. 

The Biden-Harris reelection team posted Trump's words to X, formerly Twitter, from which he was previously banned, presumably to provide a split-screen image of the two campaigns.

Trump, who has often claimed to be a "fan" of the military, has been openly dismissive of veterans in the past,  allegedly scoffing at them as "losers" and "suckers" and reportedly refusing to visit their graves on more than one occasion. 

js/fb (AP, Reuters)