(WASHINGTON) — In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.
“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said.
The president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, a monument that commemorates soldiers killed in U.S. wars whose remains have never been identified.
As Obama marked the coming end of the conflict in Afghanistan, he reflected on the nearly 7,000 soldiers who have been killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Today the transition is underway in Afghanistan and our troops are coming home,” Obama said. “Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.”
“This time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan,” he added.
Obama lamented that the costs of war fall too often on country’s all-volunteer fighting force and the families these soldiers leave behind.
“This truth cannot be ignored, today most Americans are not directly touched by war,” Obama noted. “For those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.”
“I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], every time I grieve with a gold star family,” he added.
This Memorial Day follows a week in which the president sought to usher in a new phase in the fight against terror as the decade-long conflicts in the Middle East comes to a close, and he prepares to cement his presidential legacy at the onset of his second term.
In a speech at the National Defense University on Thursday, Obama said that though the fight against terrorism must continue, the wars will come to an end.
“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end,” Obama said.
At Arlington today, Obama memorialized three soldiers who had recently died in the line of duty: Army Capt. Sara Knutson Cullen, a Black Hawk pilot, Staff Sgt. Francis G. “Frankie” Phillips IV, a combat medic, and Marine staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian.
He and first lady Michelle Obama visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where Cullen and Phillips were laid to rest.
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