President Trump took part in the solemn wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, honoring the ultimate sacrifice of every member of American Military service. The president was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump, and Second Lady Karen Pence as they arrived to a 21-gun salute in Arlington, where more than 400,000 servicemen, women, and their families have been laid to rest.
President Trump and the vice president were also joined by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley as they saluted the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, while a military band played the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Taps” in honor of Memorial Day.
The cemetery, a popular and traditional visit for Americans on Memorial Day, remains closed to the public amid the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, setting a much different tone for the president as he honored the fallen. The president laid his hand on the wreath in front of the Tomb, in a moment of reverence and recognition for those that have given their lives in service of the nation.
Neither Trump nor the vice president gave remarks at the cemetery, departing shortly after the ceremony for Baltimore, where they will visit Fort McHenry. The president is expected to speak in Baltimore at the fort monument, in recognition of American patriotism in the face of threats to national freedom.
Democratic Baltimore Mayor Jack Young criticized the president earlier this week for his intended travel plans, saying Trump was setting a bad example by participating in "nonessential travel." Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has been a consistent critic of the president throughout the pandemic, however, disagreed with Young, saying he was honored by the presidential visit.
"[I am] honored that the president and first lady have chosen to spend Memorial Day at Fort McHenry," Hogan said. "Although Marylanders are encouraged not to gather in large numbers this year -- now more than ever -- it’s important to reflect on the American heroes who sacrificed their lives for our freedom."
The “Star Spangled Banner” was penned at Fort McHenry in 1814. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and civilian prisoner at the time, was so moved emotionally by the intact American flag waving above the fort after a night of bombardment by British warships that he wrote lyrics about the miraculous defense and survival of the flag. His words became what is now our national anthem. The flag, sewn by Mary Pickersgill, is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Vice President Pence said earlier in an op-ed for Fox News on Monday that on Memorial Day this year, amid pandemic and economic devastation, the nation may cherish liberty more than they ever have.
"For all they have done, our fallen and their families deserve the tributes that will be recited on this day of days, but on this Memorial Day, perhaps we feel loyalty to their memory and gratitude for their service just a little more deeply, for it comes at a momentous time in the life of our nation, when all of us have been reminded just how precious our freedom truly is," Pence wrote.