JUDY WOODRUFF: Americans remembered generations of war dead today. The presidential candidates joined the observances, but the somber significance of the occasion put outright politicking on hold.
For the commander in chief, it was a day of solemn traditions, beginning with his appearance at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. President Obama laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, then evoked the sacrifice of the many thousands interred there.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Whenever revolution needed to be waged and a union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea.
From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of the Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president said sending troops to battle was the most wrenching decision he's had to make. But he said the long years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan are closing.
BARACK OBAMA: This Memorial Day, we mark another milestone. For the first time in nine years, Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq.
BARACK OBAMA: We are winding down the war in Afghanistan and our troops will continue to come home.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At a separate event at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the president said those who fought in Vietnam were sometimes denigrated. He called it a national shame.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, attended a Memorial Day tribute in San Diego. He was joined by the GOP's 2008 nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam prisoner of war.
MITT ROMNEY (R): Today, we honor those who've served. We dedicate ourselves to strength and to preserving the freedom for which they gave their lives and walked in harm's way. As the greatest generation sees its light slowly fading, our duty is to take up the torch they carried so gallantly and so bravely, with such great sacrifice.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In this election year, both campaigns are paying especially close attention to those who've worn the uniform.
A new Gallup poll released today found veterans favor Romney by a 58 percent to 34 percent margin. Romney returns to the campaign trail tomorrow in Colorado and Nevada, while the president remains in Washington.