Obama observes Memorial Day at Arlington

May 26th, 2009 - 12:50 am ICT by John Le Fevre  

Barack Obama US President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the fighting men and woman of the United States who have died in battle at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day 2009.

Mr. Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a marble structure housing the remains of unidentified U.S. military members who died during war, and said a willingness to risk their lives for people they’ve never met “is why they are the best of America.”

The President also sent wreaths to a monument for Confederate soldiers and other flowers to the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington to honor more than 200,000 African-Americans who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Memorial Day is recognized as dating back to 1868 when it was called Decoration Day because flowers would be placed on the graves of soldiers who had died in the Civil War.

The first official observance was in1868 with flowers being placed on both Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves in Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act establishing Memorial Day as a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

Presidents traditionally visit Arlington to personally leave a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Another tradition is to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time, while volunteers often place American flags on each gravesite at National Cemeteries.

In 200 the US Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act, which encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3pm local time for a minute of silence to honor and remember those who gave their lives in the service of the country.

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