WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden saluted the sacrifice of generations of fallen American soldiers for their country as he marked Memorial Day with the traditional wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Biden was joined by First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Harris’ husband Douglas Emhoff for the 155th National Memorial Day celebration. He had a moment of contemplation at the wreath, which was adorned with flowers and a red, white and blue bow, then bowed his head in prayer.
“We must never forget the price that was paid to protect our democracy,” Biden said later in a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater. “We must never forget the lives these flags, flowers and marble markers represent.”
“Every year we remember,” he said. “And every year it never gets easier.”
Monday’s federal holiday honoring fallen US service members came a day after Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a final agreement on a deal that would raise the US debt ceiling and now awaits congressional approval.
As it stands, the deal would keep non-military spending roughly flat in fiscal year 2024 and increase it by 1% the following year. The measure would allow for defense growth of 3% in fiscal year 2024, to $886 billion, and then an additional 1% in fiscal year 2025, to $895 billion.
Biden is proud that his Democratic administration oversaw a period of relative peace for the US military after two decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It’s been nearly 21 months since Biden ended America’s longest war in Afghanistan, delivering on his campaign promise to end a 20-year-old ‘eternal war’ that has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 service members. Americans.
The war in Afghanistan, however, ended deadly and chaotically on Biden’s watch in August 2021, with critics calling the administration’s handling of the evacuation of some 120,000 U.S., Afghan and other citizens wrong. planned and poorly executed.
The Biden administration released a tally of the war’s final days last month, largely blaming his Republican predecessor, President Donald Trump, and saying Biden was “severely constrained” by Trump’s decisions.
The United States now finds itself leading a coalition of allies pouring tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid into Ukraine as it tries to repel the Russian invasion, which appears to be no have no end in sight.
While making clear he does not want US troops to enter the conflict, Biden said he views the Russian effort to seize territory as an affront to international standards and pledged to help Kiev win, sending in artillery, tanks and drones and recently agreeing to allow the allies to train the Ukrainian army on American F-16 planes.
Ahead of Monday’s ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, Va., the Bidens hosted a White House breakfast for members of veterans’ organizations, military services and military family organizations, the surviving families of fallen U.S. soldiers, senior Department of Defense officials, and other administration officials.
The president and first lady were due to return home near Wilmington, Delaware, later Monday to spend the rest of the federal vacation.