Donald Trump made his first Memorial Day remarks as president, paying tribute Monday to fallen U.S. service members, and thanking their families for their sacrifice.
“Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love, or the totality of their courage. We only hope that every day we can prove worthy, not only of their sacrifice and service, but of the sacrifice made by the families and loved ones they left behind,” Trump said. “Special, special people,” he added.
The sun broke through the clouds as the president’s motorcade crossed Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River on the way to the cemetery. A 21-gun salute greeted him on his arrival.
A somber Trump, clad in a dark blue suit buttoned over a light blue striped tie, placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, and paused for several seconds with his eyes closed, and his hands still on the wreath, before stepping back and standing at attention while a U.S. Army bugler played taps just a few feet away.
The president then climbed the steps above the tomb to the cemetery’s marble amphitheater, where he delivered his address.
“Here at this hallowed shrine, we honor the noblest among us, the men and women who paid the ultimate price for victory and for freedom. We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced into gunfire, roared into battle, and ran into hell to face down evil,” Trump said.
He paid special tribute to two soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Army Capt. Andrew D. Byers of Colorado Springs and Christopher D. Horton of the Oklahoma National Guard. Their family members wept as the audience gave them a standing ovation.
Trump recognized former Sen. Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in action during World War II. Dole, 93, rose from his wheelchair to acknowledge the applause.
The president also thanked Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, whose son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in November 2010. After his speech, Trump visited Robert Kelly’s grave in Section 60 of the cemetery.
During that visit, the president greeted other families who had lost loved ones. He accepted a yellow rose from Alison Malachowski, whose son, Marine Staff Sgt. James Michael Malachowski, is buried in Section 60.
Trump also paused to talk to a young boy dressed in a crisp Marine uniform. Six-year-old Christian Jacobs’ father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, died during military training exercises in Twentynine Palms, Calif., in 2011. The boy was visiting his father’s grave with his mother, Brittany Jacobs.