AP NEWS

Mike Pence Arlington Cemetery Memorial day speech honors fallen heroes

May 27, 2019

With parades, military displays and graveside ceremonies, millions of Americans took time Monday to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of service personnel who fought and died for the country.

At the Bethpage Air Show at Long Island, New York, more than 200,000 spectators thrilled to the sight of Army parachutists floating gracefully to the ground, while families gathered for Memorial Day observances in Fayetteville, North Carolina not far from the world’s largest military installation, Fort Bragg, with more than 50,000 active duty service members.

At the Los Angeles National Cemetery, 88,000 American flags were placed to honor those who had paid the ultimate price in World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the global war on terrorism, which has become the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.

Military members, families and friends congregated at Arlington National Cemetery to observe a moment of silence with Vice President Mike Pence, who placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the memorial for the unidentified remains of service members killed in combat.

“Today on Memorial Day, we honor Americans who showed no greater love for the American people,” said Mr. Pence, who filled in for President Trump, who was in Japan meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Before departing for Tokyo last week, Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited Arlington to participate in the decades-old tradition of placing flags at each grave site.

Monday’s ceremony at Arlington included acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan; Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and several Gold Star families. The vice president noted that “every day is Memorial Day” for the families of fallen military personnel.

Mr. Pence said that “our best and bravest have stepped forward to defend freedom. The unbroken cord of military service stretches into the mists of American history. From Bunker Hill to Belleau Wood, from San Juan Hill to Saipan, from the Coral Sea to Kandahar, heroic Americans have answered their nation’s call and paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

“Their duty was to serve; our duty is to remember,” he said.

Meanwhile, the automobile owners group AAA estimated that 43 million Americans were on the road during Memorial Day, the second-highest number since the it began monitoring holiday travel in 2000.

In Maine, a major Memorial Day celebration noted the absence of a prominent veteran who died last year former President George H.W. Bush.

The American Legion had two empty chairs in Kennebunkport’s Dock Square in memory of the former president and first lady Barbara Bush, who had watched the Memorial Day parade from that spot in years past.

Mark Matthews of American Legion Post 159 said organizers wanted to acknowledge the absence of Bush, a longtime summer resident and Navy veteran who died last year at age 94, just months after his wife’s death, The Associated Press reported.

In New York City the Empire State Building was lit up in red, white and blue, while in Chicago, newly installed Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined veterans and others for a wreath-laying ceremony in Grant Park at the General John A. Logan Monument. Logan was a Civil War general and founder of Decoration Day, which evolved into Memorial Day.

In Fayetteville, families weathered high temperatures to mark the day at Freedom Memorial Park, with local media reporting that almost everyone there had a military connection. According to TV station WRAL, event organizer Don Talbot warned those gathered to not let Memorial Day become “a sale and a holiday and not a commiserative to remember.”

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