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News Wrap: ‘We have to do better’ by our vets, Obama says at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

In our news wrap Monday, on his last Memorial Day as commander-in-chief, President Obama paid tribute to the nation’s veterans and made special mention of the American soldiers who died this past year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, more than 50 policemen in Afghanistan were killed in a wave of Taliban attacks, the first such violence since the militant group named a new leader last week.

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  • JOHN YANG:

    Good evening. I'm John Yang. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff are away.

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: In a Memorial Day tradition, President Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor fallen service members.

  • Then:

    The Iraqi army, backed by the U.S., battle Islamic State forces in the key city of Fallujah, trying to take back the Iraqi city seized by the terror group two years ago.

  • Also ahead:

    Following the twists and turns of the campaign trail, our politics Monday Team breaks down the most recent developments in the presidential election.

    Plus, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Balakian grapples with his family's dark past as survivors of the Armenian genocide.

    PETER BALAKIAN, Winner, 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: One of the reasons for my writing "Black Dog of Fate" was to try to make sense of growing up in a family in which a traumatic history was really repressed.

  • JOHN YANG:

    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

    (BREAK)

  • JOHN YANG:

    The battle to recapture the Islamic State's last major stronghold in Western Iraq has been joined in earnest. Government troops began pushing into Fallujah today, after seizing most of the city's outskirts in the last week. An Iraqi commander says the fighting was fierce. We will have a full report on the battle after the news summary.

    In the day's other news: Officials in Afghanistan reported more than 50 police killed in a string of Taliban attacks, the first since the group named a new leader last week. The militants hit checkpoints in Eastern Helmand Province, killing 33 officers on Sunday, and up to 24 others today. Residents in the provincial capital said artillery and machine gun fire could be heard close to the city.

    On this Memorial Day, President Obama made special mention of the Americans who died in the past year in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the last time this commander in chief will lead the nation's observances on a day of time-honored traditions.

    William Brangham has our report.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Every day, there are American families who pray for the sound of a familiar voice when the phone rings. Instead, a car pulled up to the house, and there was a knock on the front door, and the sound of "Taps" floated through a cemetery's trees.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Thousands of headstones bore mute witness at Arlington National Cemetery today, as the president first laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and then spoke of the sacrifice they represent.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    If you look closely at the white markers that grace these hills, one thing you will notice is that so many of years, dates of birth and dates of death, are so close together.

    They belong to young Americans, those who never lived to be honored as veterans for their service, men who battled their own brothers in civil war, those who fought as a band of brothers an ocean away, men and women who redefined heroism for a new generation.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    More than two dozen American service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since last Memorial Day.

    The president today singled out three of them, all special forces troops killed by Islamic State fighters in Iraq, Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV, Marine Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin, and Army Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler.

    President Obama also said Americans, and the government, must do more for those who do return home.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We have to make sure our veterans get everything that they have earned, from good health care to a good job, and we have to do better. Our work is never done. We have to be there not only when we need them, but when they need us.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Amid the ceremonies in Washington, police locked down parts of the White House complex for a time, when someone threw a suspicious package over a fence. A woman was later taken into custody.

    Elsewhere, annual parades and tributes played out across the country. In New Castle, Delaware, Vice President Biden took part in ceremonies naming the state National Guard headquarters for his son, Beau Biden, who died last year of brain cancer.

    And Memorial Day also brought thousands of travelers to airports. There were still long security lines in some places, but, for the most part, delays appeared shorter than before.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

  • JOHN YANG:

    About 320 rescued migrants and refugees arrived at a port in Sicily today.

    And something has happened in Sweden that had not happened since they started keeping records in 1749. The country now has more men than women. The Swedish government's new count is a rare (AUDIO GAP)

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": Iraqi forces advance on the ISIS-held city of Fallujah; our Politics Monday duo breaks down the state of the presidential race; a tech mogul's fight against Gawker generates a fierce debate over a free press; and much more.

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