(President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2009. White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)
Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.
A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country. As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. And we've gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.
Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.
Old soldiers are pulling themselves a little straighter to salute brothers lost a long time ago. Children are running their fingers over colorful ribbons that they know signify something of great consequence, even if they don't know exactly why. Mothers are re-reading final letters home and clutching photos of smiling sons or daughters, as youthful and vibrant as they always will be.
They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.
Those who rest in these fields fought in every American war. They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution. They strained to hold a young union together. They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle. And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world's stability.
Their stories are the American story. More than seven generations of them are chronicled here at Arlington. They're etched into stone, recounted by family and friends, and silently observed by the mighty oaks that have stood over burial after burial.
(President Barack Obama bows his head for a moment of silence at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2009. White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)
(A U.S. Marine and U.S. Airman join guests attending Memorial Day ceremonies Monday, May 25, 2008, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where President Barack Obama gave remarks in honor of those who serve and have served in the U.S. military. White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)