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Memorial Day weekend, long a major moment for Biden, took on added edge this year as the president spoke frequently and emotionally about his own loss while expressing a nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices of others.
“I cannot thank you enough for your continued service to the country,” said Biden, addressing a crowd of Gold Star military families and other veterans at a ceremony held at War Memorial Plaza under the shadow of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. “I know how much the loss hurts.”
“They are the guardians of us and we are the guardians of their inheritance,” Biden said of those who served in the armed forces. “Despite all the pain, I know the pride you feel in the loved one you have lost.”
Though a tent stood over them, the cold wind lashed the rain on the guests as they watched a lone military trumpeter play taps in front of a memorial to the fallen Delaware forces. Biden, seemingly ignoring the cold, stayed for the entire 75-minute ceremony and uttered the words for the final rendition of “God Bless America.” When the time came, he greeted the wreath that was laid at the monument.
Biden had attended the ceremony almost every year for decades, and it was at the event last year when he appeared for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and was spotted wearing a mask laying the wreath.
Hours before the ceremony on Sunday, the President, First Lady Jill Biden, and other family members attended a memorial mass for Beau Biden at their local church. After the service, the Bidens greeted the well-wishers in front of the church and were able to receive warm hugs and handshakes in their home parish for the first time in more than a year.
The Bidens went to Beau’s grave, on the property of St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine, and left flowers between several American flags that had been placed on the manicured lawn next to the marker.
Beau Biden served two terms as Delaware attorney general before declaring a candidacy for governor, and many saw in him the same aspirations that brought his father to the White House. Beau Biden also served in the Delaware National Guard and when sent to Iraq was granted permission to wear a uniform with a different surname in order not to receive special treatment.
That story, told by Biden on Friday at an air force base in Virginia, was one of the many moments Biden’s son defined Memorial Day weekend. After beginning an emotional reminder of his late son, Biden recognized the unannounced sacrifices made by the service members and their families.
“You are the best America has to offer,” Biden said at the time.
Biden also underscored his recent decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan later this year, and thanked the service members who have made multiple missions during America’s longest war.
He largely avoided the details of international affairs on Sunday, despite promising to urge Russia’s Vladimir Putin on human rights during their summit in Geneva next month, saying that the time had come to show the world, and China in particular, that the United States ready to lead again after four years of largely inward foreign policy under President Donald Trump.
“It is time to remind everyone of who we are,” he said.