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America Marks Memorial Day, Honors War Dead

By Paula Wolfson
25 May 2009

Americans are marking the Memorial Day holiday, when the nation honors its war dead. President Barack Obama led the observances at the nation's best-known military cemetery.

A short drive from the White House lies Arlington National Cemetery.

It is holy ground to members of the military and their families - its gently sloping lawns covered with endless rows of burial markers.

There, surrounded by the graves of countless war dead, from the Revolutionary War to the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama delivered his first Memorial Day address.

He talked about the plots of land where old soldiers lie, having left a legacy of peace to their descendants. And he spoke of fresh graves and fresh tears.

"We pay tribute to those who forged our history but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost," he said. "And even as we gather here this morning, all across America people are pausing to remember, to mourn and to pray."

He wondered what the fallen would say to those who gathered in remembrance on Memorial Day. Would they speak of the sense of duty that prompted them to lay their lives on the line for others?

"Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they would be called upon to storm a beach in a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom," said Mr. Obama. "That while they could not know they would be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country."

The president said he is humbled to be the commander-in-chief of a military that he described as "the best of America and the best fighting force in the history of the world." And once again, as he did most recently last week in an address to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, he offered his full support.

"I know that there is nothing I will not do to keep our country safe, even as I face no harder decision than sending our men and women to war, and no moment more difficult than writing a letter to the families of the fallen," he added.

The president reaffirmed that he will only send troops into harms way when absolutely necessary, and will make sure they have the resources to get their job done.

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