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Memorial Day 2013: America honors the fallen (PLANET PIC, VIDEO)
Monday, May 27th, 2013

America honored its fallen war victims and veterans Monday in Memorial Day services and celebrations across the country. 

President Obama lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Monday morning, a Memorial Day tradition, before delivering his address to the nation — just a week after his landmark counterterrorism speech brought both praise and criticism. 

Obama discussed the progress in the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan, noting that next year's holiday will be the "final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan."

He also noted that most Americans "are not directly touched by war" and may now "fully see or grasp sacrifice," urging the country to continue to support veterans after they return home. 

"On this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America's uniform, to give our troops the resources they need and to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always, to never stop searching for those who've gone missing or held as prisoners of war, but on a more basic level, every American can do something even simple," Obama continued.

"As we go about our daily lives, we must remember that our countrymen are still serving, still fighting, still putting their lives on the line for all of us."

Memorial Day observes the sacrifices made by soldiers who fought for the US. The first observance of the holiday, called Decoration Day, was in 1868 at Arlington cemetery in 1868, three years after the American Civil War. 

The President spoke Saturday about the nation's veterans, who he called the "1 percent of the American people (who) bear the burden of our defense."

"They are heroes, each and every one," Obama said. "They gave America the most precious thing they had, the last full measure of devotion. And because they did, we are who we are today: a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world."

The three-day weekend is also considered the unofficial beginning of the summer season — many Americans use the opportunity to camp, go to the beach, or spend time with family. 

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A member of the US Army Old Guard stands guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia.

(Mark Wilson - AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of the US military veterans' Rolling Thunder bikers group parade in Washington on May 26, 2013 as the country marks Memorial Day.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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Bystanders salute the bikers with an American flag during Rolling Thunder 2013 in Washington on May 26, 2013. The 26th Annual Rolling Thunder rumbled into he US capital to show support for veterans and those who have fallen in past and present wars. Some one million riders are expected to gather in Washington DC during the Memorial Day weekend.

(Mladen Antonov - AFP/Getty Images)
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Anne Kornblut and her two-year-old son visit a gravesite in section 60 at Arlington Cemetery, May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia.

(Mark Wilson - AFP/Getty Images)
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A group walks in the Memorial Day Parade on May 26, 2013 in Waterbury, Connecticut. Waterbury, once a thriving industrial city with one of the largest brass manufacturing bases in the world, has suffered economically in recent decades as manufacturing jobs have left the area.

(Spencer Platt - AFP/Getty Images)
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President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony on Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia.

(Joshua Roberts - AFP/Getty Images)
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Women in traditional Vietnamese garb fly the flag of the former South Vietnam as members of the US military veterans' Rolling Thunder bikers group parade.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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A couple dressed as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Lincoln embrace as they wait for the Memorial Day Parade to pass on May 26, 2013 in Waterbury, Connecticut.

(Spencer Platt - AFP/Getty Images)
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A man salutes as members of the US military veterans' Rolling Thunder bikers group ride past.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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Two women hold up signs thanking the troops as members of the US military.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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A woman walks amongst the graves of soldiers who fell during World War II, searching for a grave of a relative during a service to mark US Memorial Day at the Manila American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio in Manila on May 26, 2013. At least 17,000 graves are in the park that pays tribute to US and Philippines soldiers that fought side-by-side during World War II. The US marks Memorial Day on May 27.

(Noel Celis - AFP/Getty Images)
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People gather to pay their respects at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington on May 25, 2013 as the country marks Memorial Day on May 27.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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Cub Scout Owen Thomason American flags while placing a flag on the graves of veterans buried at Moore Cemetery on May 25, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The annual Memorial Day project took place in the Moore Cemetery, which sits next to a tornado destroyed neighborhood.

(Tom Pennington - AFP/Getty Images)
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A US war veteran pays his respects at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington on May 24, 2013 as the country prepares to celebrate Memorial Day.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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Dale Brownlow helps a friend recover belongings from a tornado ravaged home early on May 27, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. Residents and volunteers observed the Memorial Day holiday by continuing to recover valuables from the destroyed neighborhoods one week after the massive tornado hit the area.

(Tom Pennington - AFP/Getty Images)
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People gather at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington on May 24, 2013 as the country prepares to celebrate Memorial Day.

(Nicholas Kamm - AFP/Getty Images)
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A US Marine walks alongside a woman through Section 60, the area of the cemetery primarily for members of the military killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.

(Saul Loeb - AFP/Getty Images)
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US First Lady Michelle Obama bows her head during a prayer in honor of Memorial Day.

(Saul Loeb - AFP/Getty Images)
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People listen as US President Barack Obama speaks in honor of Memorial Day.

(Saul Loeb - AFP/Getty Images)
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People carry a Life guard beach at Long Branch on the first weekend of Jersey Shore beaches re-opening to the public on May 27, 2013 in Long Branch, NJ.

(Kena Betancur - AFP/Getty Images)
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