- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

Paying tribute to fallen service members who “paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom,” President Obama on Monday asked Americans to celebrate Memorial Day as a day of “silent remembrance and solemn prayer” at 3 p.m. with a pledge to serve the nation.

Mr. Obama lauded the military and their families, especially thanking those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, during a speech after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“My grandfather served in Patton’s Army in World War II, but I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle. I’m the father of two young girls, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child,” he said.

“These are things I cannot know, but I do know this: I am humbled to be the commander-in-chief of the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”

Mr. Obama asked that Americans “pause in national unity” at 3 p.m. to offer a prayer, ring a bell or say a silent thank you to the men and women serving the nation.

He also asked all Americans to “commit to give something back to this nation, something lasting in their memory, to affirm in our own lives and advance around the world those enduring ideals of justice, equality and opportunity for which they and so many generations of Americans have given that last full measure of devotion.”

The president said Arlington is a “testament to the price our nation has paid for freedom.”

As he has done frequently, Mr. Obama pledged he would only send troops into harm’s way when it’s “absolutely necessary” and said veterans will be given the care and honor they deserve when returning home from combat.

“I promise all our servicemen and women that, when the guns fall silent and you do return home, it will be to an America that is forever here for you just as you’ve been there for us,” he said.

Mr. Obama pointedly mentioned both the Union and Confederacy, and sent wreaths both to a monument for Confederate soldiers and to a memorial honoring the 200,000 black soldiers killed fighting for the Union during the Civil War.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen introduced the president, saying that “in every possible way” Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama “have embraced our military families and they made the dreams of each their very own.”

Before the speech the president hung a large colorful wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, keeping his head down and eyes closed for several moments during the ceremony.

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