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On Memorial Day, a Reminder to Remember ‘Profound’ Human Cost of War

May 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
President Barack Obama observed Memorial Day by visiting graves of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan at Arlington National Cemetery and meeting with family members of the fallen. The president urged Americans to not take for granted the sacrifices made by U.S. troops. Gwen Ifill reports on ceremonies around the nation.
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GWEN IFILL: The traditions of Memorial Day played out today at museums and monuments, parades and picnics. It was a day to remember that some Americans still venture into harm’s way and end up making the greatest sacrifice.

It was a day for time-honored observance, beginning at Arlington National Cemetery, where the president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns amid somber silence. The hush of the ceremony gave way to tributes to those who have served and died.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:

DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL, United States: The memories of America’s heroes laid to rest here at Arlington and at American cemeteries around the world are kept alive by families and communities across our great land. This Memorial Day, we honor those families who are heroes left behind. We honor them in an appreciation for the sacrifices they have endured.

GWEN IFILL: President Obama cautioned that the nation is still at war, but he said it has become harder for the many to recognize the sacrifices of the few.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, most Americans are not directly touched by war. As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depths of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name right now, as we speak, every day. Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.

GWEN IFILL: The president and Mrs. Obama also toured Arlington’s Section 60, where troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. And they met with family members.

Overseas, U.S. troops serving in the Horn of Africa remembered their fallen comrades with a 12-hour overnight relay race in Djibouti. It ended with a flag-raising at the camp’s morning reveille.

Elsewhere, Americans gathered for their own Memorial Day remembrances, from a parade in Arlington Heights, Ill., to this ceremony in Raleigh, N.C.

MAN: I really think Memorial Day is for the one that has fought and died, and also the one who came back. So, they didn’t give all, but they gave a lot.

GWEN IFILL: Still others spent the holiday with family and friends, including many who trekked to the Jersey Shore, now back in business after last year’s pounding from Hurricane Sandy.