Obama, just returned from Afghanistan, lays wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier to mark Memorial Day

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is leading the nation in remembering its war heroes in a Memorial Day tribute at Arlington National Cemetery.

Under cloudless skies and in brilliant sunshine, Obama walked to the site of the Tomb of the Unknowns, listened to the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” and Taps and then placed a wreath.

Speaking just hours after returning from a surprise visit with U.S. troop in Afghanistan, Obama says the United States has reached “a pivotal moment” in that country with the end of war approaching by year’s end. He paid tribute to those lost in battle in Afghanistan and elsewhere over history, calling them “patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice” for their country.

The president also made a fleeting reference to the widening VA hospital scandal involving reports of delayed treatment, even possible deaths, saying the country owes it to its veterans to get them the care they need.

197-w-37-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent, with President Barack Obama)–President Obama has been leading Memorial Day tributes to the nation’s war dead. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. ((opens with sound)) (26 May 2014)

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196-w-33-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent, with President Barack Obama)–Just back from Afghanistan, President Obama has been paying tribute to America’s war dead at Arlington National Cemetery. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. ((opens with sound)) (26 May 2014)

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176-a-14-(President Barack Obama, in remarks during Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery)-“and the generals”-President Obama says Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the nation’s greatest heroes. (26 May 2014)

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178-a-15-(President Barack Obama, in remarks during Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery)-“loved the most”-President Obama says the war dead who are honored on Memorial Day leave a legacy of promise. (26 May 2014)

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175-a-16-(President Barack Obama, in remarks during Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery)-“of the world”-President Obama says America is defined by the gifts of those being honored this Memorial Day. (26 May 2014)

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179-a-14-(President Barack Obama, in remarks during Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery)-“pledge to you”-President Obama tells children of veterans who gave their lives for their country that the nation will honor that debt. (26 May 2014)

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177-a-16-(President Barack Obama, in remarks during Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery)-“to an end (cheering fades)”-President Obama says this Memorial Day brings hope that American forces will soon be out of harm’s way in the nation’s longest war. (26 May 2014)

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APPHOTO VASW108: President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 26, 2014. President Obama is leading the nation in remembering its war heroes, the fallen and those still defending the flag, in a Memorial Day tribute. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (26 May 2014)

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APPHOTO VASW102: President Barack Obama pauses after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 26, 2014. President Obama is leading the nation in remembering its war heroes, the fallen and those still defending the flag, in a Memorial Day tribute. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (26 May 2014)

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APPHOTO VASW106: President Barack Obama speaks at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 26, 2014. President Obama is leading the nation in remembering its war heroes, the fallen and those still defending the flag, in a Memorial Day tribute. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (26 May 2014)

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