Memorial Day Marked By Ceremonies, Tributes
WASHINGTON - Americans from Washington to California are marking Memorial Day with parades, barbecues and special tributes tied to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
An annual holiday honoring the nation's war dead was infused with new meaning this year, coming just months before the 10-year anniversary.
The National Memorial Day parade in Washington was to include a special recognition for first responders to the 9/11 attacks and to victims' relatives. Actor Gary Sinise and Medal of Honor recipients from the Korean and Vietnam wars were among the guests.
At the White House, President Barack Obama called America's servicemen and women "the best our nation has to offer, and they deserve nothing but the best in return, and that includes leaders."
Later on, Obama placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the venerable Arlington burial grounds. And in a speech at the Arlington amphitheater in front of a flag-draped wall, the president, who had met earlier in the day with families of troops killed in war, said: "To those of you mourn the loss of a loved one today, my heart goes out to you."
"We remember that the blessings that we enjoy as Americans came at a dear cost," he said. "Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we cannot ever fully repay. But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must."
Preceding Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the country "must never forget" its men and women in the military.
"As I come to the end of my time in this post," Gates said, " ... I will keep these brave patriots and their families in my heart and in my prayers."
Meanwhile, U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan paused to remember the fallen in Memorial Day services. Some prayed and held flag-raising ceremonies.
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