President Joe Biden championed the ideals of democracy and took time to reflect on the loss of his son Beau Biden and the losses of families across the country who have lost loved ones in the military in a Memorial Day speech Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Looking abroad, the President also paid tribute to the defenders of Ukraine who fought against a Russian invasion and the American soldiers who died during the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, he failed to mention recent military deaths under his administration – including the 13 military personnel killed in Afghanistan during a suicide bombing during the military’s withdrawal from the country.
“Ladies and gentlemen, remember this today, and we affirm that freedom is worth the sacrifice,” Biden said after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Democracy is not perfect. It’s never been perfect. But it is worth fighting for – if necessary, worth dying for.”
On the seventh anniversary of the death of his eldest child, the President continued: “Remembrance Day is always a day of mixed pain and pride. We all know it as we sit here. Jill and I know. Today is the day my son died.’
Beau Biden, who had been a major in the Delaware National Guard, died on May 30, 2015 after a battle with brain cancer while his father was vice president.
“He didn’t die on duty, he came back from Iraq with cancer. It was the terrible cancer that stole us from him – and him from us. But even so, it always feels like Memorial Day to me — I don’t see him like the last time I held his hand, but the day I pinned his bars on him as a second lieutenant,” he said President.
He went on to say that the “7,054 American service members” who “gave their lives in 20 years of our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “untold others who died from injuries and illnesses related to their service” should serve as a reminder that ‘there is nothing low risk or low cost in war.’
Biden specifically highlighted the still-unknown extent of military deaths that have occurred as a result of toxic fire pits — a personal issue for the president, who has said on several previous occasions that it was a factor in his son’s early death.
During the speech, he also commented on the war in Ukraine that Vladimir Putin has been waging for more than three months, saying that the Eastern European country’s struggle is a reminder of the price of freedom.
President Joe Biden attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honor of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery May 30 in Arlington, Virginia
In addition to Monday’s Memorial Day, the President is also reflecting on the seventh anniversary of the death of his son, a military veteran, from brain cancer
Biden was accompanied at the wreath-laying ceremony by his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris (center) and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (right). The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, was also present
Before arriving for the ceremony, the President met with Gold Star families who had lost loved ones in the military
Before Biden spoke, Austin and Milley also made brief remarks at the ceremony
His speech included references to previous US conflicts as well as Ukraine’s current struggle to hold off a Russian invasion
“At this moment, as Russia wages another war of aggression to erase the freedom and democracy — the very culture and identity — of neighboring Ukraine, we see so clearly… that freedom was never free,” Biden said.
“Democracy has always needed champions. Today, in the eternal struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are at the forefront of the fight to save their nation.
“But their struggle is part of a larger struggle that unites all people. It is a battle in which so many of the patriots have taken part, whose eternal rest is here on this sacred ground. A struggle between democracy and autocracy – between freedom and oppression, between appetite and ambition.”
In a veiled jab at Republican lawmakers’ crackdown on personal liberties like abortion and the right to vote, Biden called out “a few forever seeking to dominate the lives and liberties of many” in “a struggle for essential democratic principles — the rule of Law, free and fair elections, freedom of speech, writing and association. Freedom of religion at will, freedom of the press – principles that are essential to a free society.”
Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
Earlier at the White House, the President and First Lady hosted a Memorial Day breakfast for Austin and his wife Charlene Austin, Milley and his wife Hollyanne Milley, the second couple and Home Secretary Deb Haaland.
About 140 other people were also in attendance, consisting of members from various veterans organizations, other military service organizations, military family organizations, Pentagon officials and other administration officials.
The President began Memorial Day with a visit to the grave of his late son – the seventh anniversary of Beau Biden’s death at age 46 after a battle with brain cancer.
In addition to his military service, he also served as Delaware’s Attorney General from 2007 until a few months before his death on May 30, 2015.
The President and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were seen early Monday morning delivering a bouquet of pink flowers to the grave after attending a half-hour church service in Wilmington.
They were joined by their grandchildren and Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens.
The Bidens regularly attend Sunday mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, where Beau Biden is buried.
Later, the President and First Lady will attend the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first couple will also be joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive at St. Joseph at Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware Monday, May 30
They were seen carrying a bouquet of pink roses, which they appear to have placed on Beau Biden’s grave
The Bidens attended church for about half an hour Monday, accompanied by their grandchildren and the president’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens
Biden will deliver his Memorial Day address there and later join Gold Star families to plant a magnolia tree in honor of lives lost.
The President frequently brings up his late eldest son, a military veteran, in speeches and conversations — particularly when it comes to military service or personal losses.
Last week, hours after a gunman butchered 19 children and their two teachers at a Texas elementary school, Biden empathized with families who are now grieving by saying the loss of a son or daughter is “like a piece of a soul.” that will be torn away from you”.
“There’s an emptiness in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it. And never get out. suffocating. And it’s never quite the same,” the president said.
He spent his Sunday mourning personally with these families during a day-long trip to Uvalde, Texas with Dr. Jill Biden.
When Biden returned to the White House Monday morning, he was asked if that visit motivated him to work harder on gun control.
“I was pretty motivated the whole time. The victims, their families, spent three hours and 40 minutes with me,” the President said.
Beau Biden was a former Delaware National Guard major who served in Iraq while his father was vice president
‘You’ve been waiting the whole time. Some arrived two hours early. The pain is palpable. I think a lot is unnecessary. I will keep pushing.’
Her first stop on Sunday was the makeshift memorial at Robb Elementary School, where an 18-year-old locked himself in a classroom with an assault rifle and began shooting for nearly an hour while police waited outside.
He walked by the school sign, lined with flowers, candles and written tributes, for several minutes to read the names of the victims, once wiping away a tear.
The president also hugged principal Mandy Gutierrez and was once spotted talking while holding hands with Dr. Jill Biden, Gutierrez and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin.
He ended the trip with a more than three-hour meeting with survivors and victims’ families, followed by a face-to-face interview with first responders in the close-knit Southwest Texas community.