Obama leads country in celebrating Memorial Day - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Obama leads country in celebrating Memorial Day

Posted: Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama led the nation in commemorating Memorial Day, declaring the United States has reached "a pivotal moment" in Afghanistan with the end of war approaching.

Obama, who returned just hours earlier from a surprise visit with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, paid tribute to those lost in battle there and elsewhere over history. He called them "patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice" for their country.

"Early this morning, I returned from Afghanistan," Obama told the audience of several thousand people. "Yesterday, I visited with some of our men and women serving there - 7,000 miles from home. For more than 12 years, men and women like those I met with have borne the burden of our nation's security. Now, because of their profound sacrifice, because of the progress they have made, we're at a pivotal moment."

"Our troops are coming home. By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to end," the president said to applause. "And yesterday at Bagram, and here today at Arlington, we pay tribute to the nearly 2,200 American patriots who've made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. We will honor them, always." Obama has said it was likely that a small contingent of U.S. forces would stay behind for counterterrorism missions, as well as to train Afghan security forces.

The president made a fleeting reference to the widening scandal involving reports of poor performance by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is facing allegations of delayed treatments, and even deaths in Arizona.

"As we've been reminded in recent days - we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and their families, and ensure they get the care and benefits and opportunities that they've earned and that they deserve," said the president.

"These Americans have done their duty," Obama said. "They ask nothing more than that our country does ours - now and for decades to come," he added, drawing more applause.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general, was among those attending the ceremony. Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for policy changes and better management at the department.

The Arlington remembrance was duplicated in villages, towns, cities and counties across the country. There was a holiday weekend reunion of some of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen in upstate New York. More than 3,000 volunteers placed flags at the graves of 120,000 veterans at the Florida National Cemetery. And in Mississippi, the annual Vicksburg Memorial Day parade was being accompanied by a wreath-laying ceremony at Vicksburg National Cemetery.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brian McNeal, who is stationed at Suffolk, Virginia, joined those attending Fleet Week in New York City. "They made the sacrifice so everyday citizens don't have to worry about the evils of the world," he said.

At Arlington, Obama was joined by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, at the solemn ceremony across the Potomac River from White House on the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The remembrance was for the war heroes of yesteryear as well as servicemen and women stationed around the world. It was carried out in idyllic weather under cloudless skies and a brilliant sunshine. The national observance was to be matched by parades, picnics and speeches across the country.

Obama appeared at the cemetery's amphitheater to speak after carrying out the traditional presidential wreath-laying, surrounded there by troops in formal dress and hearing the playing of Taps.

Preceding Obama to the microphone, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a military veteran, noted this year's remembrance came with the approaching 70th anniversary of America's D-Day landing in Normandy, France. And Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "America's sons and daughters are still out there today on the frontiers of our common defense."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • More From wfmj.comMore>>

  • Lightning kills boy swimming in Pennsylvania creek

    Lightning kills boy swimming in Pennsylvania creek

    Monday, September 1 2014 3:09 PM EDT2014-09-01 19:09:34 GMT
    Authorities say a lightning strike has killed a boy who was swimming in a central Pennsylvania creek.More >>
    Authorities say a lightning strike has killed a boy who was swimming in a central Pennsylvania creek.More >>
  • Ohio police: Wedding guest tries to steal gifts

    Ohio police: Wedding guest tries to steal gifts

    DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Police in Dayton say a wedding guest tried to make off with checks and cash for the newlyweds. Officers were called to the wedding reception late Saturday night after workers noticed that a safe had been emptied out. Police say about $6,800 was found in unopened wedding cards inside a tuxedo garment bag belonging to one of the guests. A police report says surveillance video showed a man entering the office and later walking out with the garment bag. The man told police he...More >>
    DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Police in Dayton say a wedding guest tried to make off with checks and cash for the newlyweds. Officers were called to the wedding reception late Saturday night after workers noticed that a safe had been emptied out. Police say about $6,800 was found in unopened wedding cards inside a tuxedo garment bag belonging to one of the guests. A police report says surveillance video showed a man entering the office and later walking out with the garment bag. The man told police he...More >>
  • Flying club remembers 4 killed in Ohio plane crash

    Flying club remembers 4 killed in Ohio plane crash

    CLEVELAND (AP) - Members of a flying club held a candlelight vigil to remember four Ohio college students killed a week ago when a small plane crashed just after taking off near Cleveland. Friends and family members were among the 80 people who gathered Sunday night near the crash site in Willoughby Hills. Federal officials say the pilot of the plane reported he was having trouble climbing just after takeoff and was trying to return to the airport. All four people aboard the plane were stude...More >>
    CLEVELAND (AP) - Members of a flying club held a candlelight vigil to remember four Ohio college students killed a week ago when a small plane crashed just after taking off near Cleveland. Friends and family members were among the 80 people who gathered Sunday night near the crash site in Willoughby Hills. Federal officials say the pilot of the plane reported he was having trouble climbing just after takeoff and was trying to return to the airport. All four people aboard the plane were stude...More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms