Memorial Day: Fallen warriors honored around USA

Memorial Day: Fallen warriors honored around USA

1369685516000-MEMORIALDAY-020-1305271612_4_3_rx513_c680x510(USA TODAY) ARLINGTON, Va. — Americans honored the nation’s fallen warriors at Memorial Day ceremonies Monday, and President Obama said it’s especially important to remember the holiday in a time when fewer are serving in the armed forces.

“Today most Americans are not directly touched by war,” Obama said during a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

“As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day,” he said.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama started the holiday by hosting a White House breakfast with “Gold Star” families — relatives of service members who died on duty.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg led ceremonies at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, where he said Americans should “remember the sacrifice that was made so that we could be here.”

Women who served in World War II as part of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPS, were honored at the American Airpower Museum on Long Island, N.Y. Thirty-eight died during the war, testing or ferrying aircraft from factories to bases.

“These women really blazed a path,” said Julia Lauria-Blum, curator of an exhibit on the female veterans. “They were pioneers for women’s aviation. … They gave their lives serving their country.”

The holiday weekend also marked the traditional start of the U.S. vacation season. AAA, the auto club, said it expected 31.2 million Americans on the roads over the weekend, about the same number as last year. Gas prices were about the same as last year, too, at a national average of $3.65 a gallon.

Obama, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington and honoring the cemetery as “hallowed ground,” reminded the nation that it remains at war, with the Afghanistan fighting winding down in its 12th year.

“This time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan,” Obama said.

Troops and their families worry about whether they and their work will become afterthoughts, Obama said, and every now and then, “they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.”

After his remarks, the president and first lady Michelle Obama spent a half-hour in a section of the cemetery where troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. Obama spoke of three of those servicemembers during his remarks: Army Capt. Sara Cullen, a helicopter pilot who died in a crash during a training mission near Kandahar; Army Staff Sgt. Frankie Phillips, killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan; and Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Christian, who was killed after escorting a U.S. official to meet with Afghan leaders.

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