Memorial Day weekend, which has long been an important moment for Biden, gained momentum 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,” Biden said to a crowd of Gold Star military families and other veterans in a ceremony on the War Memorial Plaza under the shadow of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. “I know how much it hurts to lose.”
“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 was overhead, the cold wind lashed the rain on the guests as they saw a lone military trumpeter knock on a memorial to the fallen Delaware forces. Seeming not to mind the cold, Biden stayed throughout the 75-minute ceremony and uttered the words for the final rendition of “God Bless America.” When the time came, he greeted the wreath on the memorial.
Biden had attended the ceremony almost every year for decades, and it was last year when he first appeared since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and was spotted laying a wreath with a mask on.
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 St. Joseph’s property on Brandywine, and left flowers amid several American flags 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 posted to Iraq was given permission to wear a uniform with a different surname in order not to receive special treatment.
That story, shared by Biden on Friday at a Virginia air force base, was one of the many moments Biden’s son defined Memorial Day weekend. After beginning an emotional reminder of his late son, Biden paid tribute to the unannounced sacrifices made by members of the service and their families.
“You are the best America has to offer,” said Biden.
Biden also underscored his recent decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan later that year and thanked service members who had made multiple business trips in America’s longest war.
Avoiding the details of international affairs on Sunday largely, he promised to press Russia’s Vladimir Putin on human rights during his summit in Geneva next month, saying the moment was right to show the world, and China in particular, that the The United States is ready to resume a largely inward foreign policy under President Donald Trump after four years.
“It’s time to remind everyone of who we are,” he said.