Vice President Pence visits Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day observance
Jacqueline Yoo/ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Mike Pence spent Memorial Day honoring fallen service members at Arlington National Cemetery where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and spoke at an observance ceremony.
“Today on Memorial Day we honor Americans who showed no greater love for the American people,” Pence said Monday.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford joined the vice president at the 151st wreath-laying ceremony to pay tribute to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died while serving.
“Those laid to rest here define sacrifice, service and purpose,” Shanahan said. “In their days they guarded our freedoms. In our time, we discharge a sacred obligation to remember them.”
While President Donald Trump is visiting Japan on a four-day state trip, Pence said that Trump’s “heart is here” with those who gathered at the observance ceremony in Virginia, just outside the nation’s capital.
“To all of you here, and those looking on from afar, especially to the families of our fallen, we extend our deepest sympathies. And we also bring the deepest respect and gratitude of the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump,” Pence added.
The president and first lady Melania Trump visited Arlington on Thursday and participated in the annual “flags in” ritual, when members of the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment or “Old Guard” place American flags in front of every grave.
During Pence’s remarks Monday, he praised Trump for his promise to bring the remains of troops killed in the Korean War back to to the U.S. While 55 cases of military remains were returned by North Korea last year, the Pentagon suspended efforts to retrieve additional remains of U.S. troops in May due to a lack of communication from Pyongyang, according to American officials.
Former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole, a World War II veteran, and his wife, former Labor and Transportation Secretary and Sen. Elizabeth Dole also attended the ceremony on Monday. Pence took time during the event to thank the two-time Purple Heart recipient and his wife for their continued dedication to the military. In April, the president signed a bill into law authorizing Dole’s promotion to colonel.
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of service members and is slowly running out of burial space. The cemetery will be closed for new burials by 2040 if current policies continue, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, the executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, at a congressional hearing last year.
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