President Trump on Monday called on Americans to remember the sacrifice of the nation’s fallen service members, saying they shared “a love more deep and more pure than most will ever know,” and represent the best from every corner of the country.
“We pay tribute to their service, to mourn alongside their families and we strive to be worthy of their sacrifice,” Mr. Trump said in a speech at Arlington National Cemetery as he marked the second Memorial Day of his presidency.
Moments earlier, the president participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In his remarks, Mr. Trump vowed that fallen military members would be remembered not just on Memorial Day but every day.
“The heroes who rest in these hollowed fields, in cemeteries, battlefields and burial grounds near and far, are drawn from the full tapestry of American life,” said Mr. Trump, who often displays a deep reverence for military service.
He cited several veterans in the crowd, including former Sen. Bob Dole, who served in World War II. The president also recognized Navy veteran Ray Chavez, who at 106 is the oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Among those attending the Memorial Day tribute was Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, whose son, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, was killed in November 2010 after he stepped on a land mine while on patrol in southern Afghanistan. He is buried at Arlington.
Addressing Gold Star families, Mr. Trump said the whole country thanks them, embraces them and will “never forget our heroes,” who represent every corner of the country and “every race, color and … creed.”
“Theirs was a love more deep and more pure than most will ever know,” he said. “It was a love that willed them up mountains, through desert, across oceans and into enemy camps and into unknown dangers. They marched into hell so that America could know the blessings of peace. They died so that freedom could live.”
Before heading to the hallowed grounds across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Trump tweeted that “those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today.”
But the president then veered from the somber to the self-congratulatory in the tweet, citing what he said was the “Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!” The president also posted quotes in line with his criticism of the Justice Department and investigations into ties between his winning campaign and Russia.
He was criticized for his tone by a number of people, including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Obama administration, retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who wrote, “This day, of all days of the year, should not be about any one of us.”
Memorial Day messages from first lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, struck to a theme of remembrance and thanks.
“As we remember our fallen servicemen and women, our hearts are filled with gratitude for their sacrifice and awe of their courage,” Ivanka Trump tweeted.
And Melania Trump thanked service members and their families for helping safeguard the country. “We honor the many Americans who laid down their lives for our great country. As one nation under God, we come together to remember that freedom isn’t free,” she tweeted.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored the more than a million Americans he said “gave their last full measure so we could live in freedom and raise our children in peace.”
He also honored the families “they left behind and for whom every day is Memorial Day.”
Those who fought and died for America, he said, “shared a commitment to something greater than themselves and they were people who understand what we have in this country is worth fighting for.”
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.