President Obama honors veterans at Arlington
Posted November 11, 2009 5:43 a.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2009 5:37 p.m. EST
Arlington, Va. — President Barack Obama went to the national burial ground for war heroes to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a day after leading a memorial service for those slain in the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings.
On a gray, rainy day, the commander in chief took part in a tradition honoring not only those who lost their lives in battle but also the men and women who serve U.S. military missions worldwide today.
Wearing a black raincoat, the president placed a flower-laced wreath on a stand and stood over it silently for several moments. He placed his hand on his heart as a bugler played taps.
"In this time of war, we gather here mindful that the generation serving today already deserves a place alongside previous generation for the courage they have shown and the sacrifices they have made," Obama said during a brief speech at the cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater.
"In an era where so many acted in the pursuit of narrow self interests, they chose the opposite. They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self – many even after they knew they would be sent in harm's way," he continued. "So to all of them – to our veterans, to the fallen and to their families – there's no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice."
Obama pledged he would do right by all veterans and families, saying, "America will not let you down."
After his comments, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spent some time in the section of the cemetery where fallen troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried. The Obamas surprised family members who were there to pay their respects and spent some time talking to them.
Obama was expected Wednesday afternoon to meet with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan. All the major players will be there, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who three months ago said he needed 40,000 more troops.
Administration officials have said the president is considering sending more troops to the war zone but less than McChrystal has requested. Some officials have said the war there cannot be won and that it will cost many more American lives.
More than 800 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime.
Meanwhile, a number of events happened locally to honor those who have served in the military.
Gov. Beverly Perdue spike to the Disabled American Veterans in Jacksonville Wednesday morning Other ceremonies took place in Wake, Wilson, Orange and Franklin counties.
N.C. Rep. Grier Martin, R-Wake, an Iraqi War veteran, as well as veterans attending North Carolina State University are expected to speak at a ceremony at Harris Field on the N.C. State campus at 5:15 p.m.
Also known as Armistice Day, Nov. 11 marks the day in 1918 when the Allies and Germany signed an armistice formally ending World War I.
At Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, U.S. soldiers stood to attention during a ceremony before observing a moment of silence.
"We pause today as a coalition command just as our nation will pause at home to remember those who have served to honor their service and their sacrifice," Commanding General MG Richard P. Formica said.