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Obama Pays Memorial Day Tribute to the Fallen at Arlington National Cemetery

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President Barack Obama paid a Memorial Day tribute to soldiers who lost their lives defending their country and emphasized, in a pointed reference to a growing scandal, that those who return from war must receive ample care.

Just back from a surprise visit with troops in Afghanistan, Obama laid a wreath the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. He praised troops still fighting the 12-year war there, and reiterated that “because of their profound sacrifice,” many would return home from that war by the end of the year.

"As we’ve been reminded in recent days, we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and families and ensure they get the care and benefits and opportunities they've earned and deserve," Obama said, referring to accusations against the Department of Veterans Affairs that some veterans died because of delayed care. "These Americans have done their duty, they ask nothing more than that our country does ours," Obama said.

Image: President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery
President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 26, 2014.Susan Walsh / AP

Embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was in attendance, along with first lady Michele Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. Gen. Martin Dempsey and United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave brief addresses.

Obama added that families of vets and the fallen also deserve the utmost care.

"You will never walk alone," he promised.

Obama told stories of three daughters who "have displayed a strength beyond their years" in the time since they lost their father; and a mother whose son, killed in Afghanistan, "will always inspire her and always be her superman." And he told the story of a wife who lost her husband in Korea, and vowed to never remarry.

"Last December, his remains finally identified, Joseph returned home to be laid to rest," he said. The soldier's 96-year-old widow tearfully waved to the crowd following the tribute.

"They gave their lives so that we might live ours," Obama concluded.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, and June 6 is the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings at Normandy.

— Elisha Fieldstadt

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