Biden marks Memorial Day at Arlington cemetery, mentions son’s cancer death

WASHINGTON — President Biden honored America’s fallen troops Monday at Arlington National Cemetery — saying in a Memorial Day speech that Americans must be “keepers of their mission” while reminiscing about his own son’s death from brain cancer.

“Today, we’re not just fortunate heirs of their legacy, we have a responsibility to be the keepers of their mission — that truest memorial to their lives: the actions we take every day to ensure that our democracy endures,” the 81-year-old president said after laying a wreath at the military cemetery.

Biden, whose son Beau died in 2015, said that he understood the grief of families in attendance for the annual event, and noted the expansion of veteran health treatment under the PACT Act, which he signed in 2022.

“I know it hurts. The hurt is still real, still raw. This week marks nine years since I lost my son, Beau,” Biden said.

“Our losses are not the same. He didn’t perish on the battlefield. He was a cancer victim from a consequence of being in the Army in Iraq for a year next to a burn pit — a major in the US National Army, National Guard, living and working by too many besides that toxic burn pit,” he continued.

“And as it is for so many of you, the pain of his loss is with me every day, as it is with you — still sharp, still clear, but so is the pride I feel in his service, as if I can still hear him saying, ‘It’s my duty, Dad, it’s my duty,’” he went on.

“Duty, that was the code of my son live by and the creed all of you live by — the creed that generations of service members have followed into battle. On the grounds around us lie fallen heroes from every major conflict in history, to defend our independence, to preserve our union, to defeat fascism, to build powerful alliances, forged in the fires of two world wars.”

Biden, who is preparing for a trip to Normandy next month to commemorate the US military’s role in the invasion of Nazi-occupied France, noted that American troops “80 years ago next week took to the beaches of Normandy and liberated a continent and literally saved the world.”

“Decade after decade, tour after tour, these warriors fought for our freedom and the freedom of others, because freedom has never been guaranteed,” he said.

“Every generation has to earn it, fight for it, defend it in battle between autocracy and democracy, between the greed of a few and the rights of many.”

Biden added that “our democracy is more than just a system of a government. It’s the very soul of America. It’s how we’ve been able to constantly adapt through the centuries.”

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