Memorial Day 2010: Obama & It’s Origins


Vice President Biden Lays a Wreath at the  Tomb of the Unknowns in   ArlingtonVice President Joe Biden lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • What is Memorial Day?: Source Chicago Sun-Times, 5-31-10
    Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
    The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
    The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies….
  • Take time to remember meaning, intent of Memorial Day:
    Source: The Olympian, 5-31-10
    Today is more than the end of a three-day weekend. It’s a day to honor the deceased — especially those men and women who have served this nation in the armed forces. Unfortunately, over the years Memorial Day has lost much of its meaning. Today, families look upon the Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer — especially when the weather cooperates. It’s an opportunity to get away to the beach or the mountains, have a picnic or family reunion or the first opportunity of the year to pitch the family tent at a favorite campground.
    Sadly, not many of us take the time to remember the dead or say a prayer for the 1.2 million uniformed men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might thrive as a nation blessed with freedom and liberty….
  • Obama’s plan for Memorial Day speech in Illinois wiped out by rain, lightning: It has been years since President Obama attended a rally like the one that took place Monday night at Andrews Air Force Base: sparsely attended, thrown together at the last minute, involving people who were not expecting to be there. Yet that’s what happened after a torrential downpour ruined well-laid presidential plans. Chased out of a Memorial Day service in Illinois by a fierce storm, Obama flew home to make remarks that he intended to deliver eight hours earlier. Instead of speaking in front of thousands, he addressed a small crowd of hastily summoned service members in a hangar…. – WaPo, 6-1-10
  • Biden honors war dead; rain forces Obama to cancel Ill. speech In Afghanistan, McChrystal leads tribute to fallen: Vice President Joe Biden hailed America’s fighting men and women yesterday as the “spine of this nation,” while President Obama’s Land of Lincoln tribute got washed out by a severe thunderstorm and high winds. Discuss Biden made the more traditional appearance at Arlington National Cemetery on Obama’s behalf, saying the country has “a sacred obligation’” to make sure its servicemen and women are the best equipped and best supported troops in the world. “As a nation, we pause to remember them,” Biden said. “They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us.”… – Boston Globe, 6-1-10
  • Obama Not the 1st President to Miss Memorial Day at Arlington:
    CBS News, 5-31-10
    Some conservative talk show hosts and pundits have mounted an effort to politicize Memorial Day by questioning President Obama’s plan to visit a national cemetery in Illinois instead of attending the annual ceremony at Arlington.
    Let’s set the record straight. Mr. Obama will participate today in a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, about 50 miles south of Chicago. He is not the first president to be away from Washington on a patriotic holiday.
    The critics were either ignorant of the facts or they failed to mention the 2007 Veterans Day ceremony when Vice President Dick Cheney spoke while President George W. Bush observed the holiday in Texas.
    Vice President Dan Quayle laid the wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day, 1992. I recall covering President George H.W. Bush, a distinguished World War II vet, as he marked the holiday that year at his favorite vacation spot, Kennebunkport, Maine, where he spoke to a veterans group.
    Back in 1983, a Defense Department official laid the Memorial Day wreath at Arlington when Ronald Reagan was at a G-7 Summit meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia….
  • President Barack Obama is scheduled to give his remarks at a Memorial Day service in Elwood, Illinois today:
    Source: WBEZ, 5-30-10
    President Obama and the first family are wrapping up their weekend visit to Chicago. Obama is expected to give the address at a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, about 50 miles south-west of the city. The service will be accompanied by music from the Joliet American Legion Band and readings from students of the Elwood Community Consolidated Elementary School.
    Back in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden will host a breakfast for Gold Star Families at the White House. Afterwards, the Vice President will visit Arlington National Cemetery where he’ll participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
  • Support slipping for women’s war memorial Organizers hope new generation of soldiers will help keep it open:
    Source: AP, 5-31-10
    Garage sales and quilt raffles helped a determined group of female World War II veterans raise money to transform a rundown wall at Arlington National Cemetery into a grand stone memorial to women who served their country. But those women are dying off, even as the memorial runs short of funds. With women now involved more heavily in combat jobs, those early organizers hope a new generation will step up to the challenge of keeping the memorial open so military women’s stories won’t be lost. The dedication of the memorial that today is a visitor’s first view of the cemetery was such a joyous event that 40,000 people attended in 1997. One of them, a 101-year-old World War I vet named Frieda Mae Hardin, met with cheers when she told the crowd that women considering military careers should, “Go for it!”…


Vice President Biden Speaks in  Arlington

Vice President Joe Biden delivers Memorial Day remarks in the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater in Arlington, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Vice President Joe Biden: “And As a Nation, We Pause Today to Remember Them”:
    Source: WH, 5-31-10
    Collectively, the generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, and I would say, spine of this nation. And as a nation, we pause today to remember them. They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us. And in so doing, they imparted a responsibility on us to recognize, to respect, to honor and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live ours. Moments ago, I had the distinct honor and high privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This morning, I welcomed to the White House the Gold Star families, who know all too well the price of their loved ones’ patriotism. I met Ruth Stonesifer, the current President of the Gold Star Mothers, who lost her son Kristofor on the first night of major operations in Afghanistan on October of 2001; and Emogene Cupp, the mother who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and unveiled the first panel; to Terry Davis, a remarkable champion of Gold Star families. Terry, God love her, is a Gold Star sister, a Gold Star wife, and a Gold Star mother — none should be asked to sacrifice that much.
    To those who have lost a loved one in the service of our nation, I recall a famous headstone in Ireland. And the headstone reads as follows, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” No one can steal the memory from you. I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the pain and heartache you now feel will eventually, God-willing, be replaced by the joyful memory of the son or daughter or husband and wife or father or mother that you loved so dearly and lost. Jill and my prayer for you is that that day will come sooner rather than later. But it will come, I promise you.
  • President Barack Obama: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day:
    Source: WH, 5-29-10
    Remarks of President Barack Obama, Saturday, May 29, 2010, Weekly Address, Washington, DC: This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.
    It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.
    Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.
    On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.
    A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.
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