(May 27, 2014) While it is fitting to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day, it is also a time to remember those most directly affected by their deaths, President Barack Obama said Monday during Memorial Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Obama placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and then spoke to an audience of more than 3,000 people in the Memorial Amphitheatre. The president returned from a visit to Afghanistan only hours before his speech. While at Bagram Airfield, he met with U.S. leaders and more than 3,000 service members.
"For more than 12 years, men and women like those I met with have borne the burden of our nation's security," he told the audience gathered in the amphitheater.
"Now, because of their profound sacrifice, because of the progress that they have made, we're in a pivotal moment," Obama said. "Our troops are coming home. By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end."
But that war claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 American patriots, he said.
"We will honor them always," the president said. "Today in small towns across America, in cemeteries throughout our country and around the world, and here on these solemn hillsides, the families of our fallen share stories of the lives they led. Our hearts ache in their absence, but our hearts are also full, full in knowing that their legacy shines bright in the people that they loved the most."
The families of these men and women "have tapped a courage and resolve that many of us will never know, and we draw comfort and strength from their example," he continued.
For parents who have lost a child, for husbands and wives who have lost partners and for children who have lost parents, "this day and this place are solemn reminders of the extraordinary sacrifice they have made in our name," Obama said. "But today reminds us, as well, that for these families and for their comrades-in-arms, their service to our nation endures."