President Joe Biden and other dignitaries honored those who gave their lives serving in the United States military with a series of events on Memorial Day, including the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Today renew our sacred vow, it's a simple vow: to remember. To remember," Biden said in an address at Arlington National Cemetery Monday afternoon. "Memorial Day is always a day where pain and pride are mixed together."
"For many of you ... the hurt is wrapped around the knowledge that your loved one was part of something bigger, bigger than any of us," Biden said. "They chose a life of purpose. They had a mission. Above all, they believed in duty. They believed in honor. They believe their country. And still today we are free because they were brave."
"We live by the light and the flame of liberty that they kept burning," the president added. "So part of them still with us, no matter how long ago we lost them."
"Our memorial to them must not be just a day when we pause and pray," Biden said of fallen service members. "It must be a daily commitment to act, to come together, to be worthy of the price that was paid."
The president began his day in his home state of Delaware, where he visited the grave of his son, Beau, on the seventh anniversary of his death. Beau Biden, who was a member of the Delaware Army National Guard and served in Iraq, died on May 30, 2015, from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
"Seven years ago today, our son Maj. Beau Biden took his last breaths at Walter Reed," Biden said in his address later Monday at Arlington National Cemetery. "I see him not as he was the last time I held his hand, but the day I pinned his bars on him as a second lieutenant. I see him with me down at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, hugging all the Gold Star families."
"Days like this bring back before your eyes their smile and their laugh," the president said of his late son.
Upon returning to the White House from Delaware, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted a breakfast for Gold Star families, family members of those whose loved ones died in service to the country.
The Biden family was joined at the ceremony at Arlington by Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, as well as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Biden laid the wreath and saluted it right before a bugle player played "Taps," the traditional call of the U.S. Armed Forces at ceremonies and military funerals.
"Democracy is not perfect," Biden said in his Memorial Day remarks after the wreath-laying ceremony. "But it's worth fighting for. If necessary, worth dying for."
"Ukraine and its people are on the frontlines fighting to save their nation," Biden said, evoking the country's three-month conflict with Russia. "A battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression."
The day culminated with the president and first lady planting a tree on the White House’s South Lawn alongside families of service members who have died in service to the country. The magnolia tree will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as “the families who carry on their legacies,” according to the White House.
The events came one day after President Biden and the first lady traveled to Uvalde, Texas, the site of the second-deadliest school shooting in recorded U.S. history, to meet with families of victims and honor lives lost.
The Bidens on Sunday first paid their respects to the victims by visiting a memorial at Robb Elementary School, the site of the horrific massacre which saw 21 people killed, including 19 children. They also attended a Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church before meeting privately with victims' families.
As the Bidens left the church to meet with families of victims and survivors of the shooting, a crowd gathered outside the church thanked the president for visiting and urged him to "do something" about gun violence.
"We will," Biden promised.