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.