ARLINGTON, Va., May 30, 2011 -- President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., paying a Memorial Day tribute to generations of Americans who have fought and died to defend the nation’s freedom.
The president was accompanied by Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and U.S. Army Military District of Washington commanding general, Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, who also paid tribute to all fallen American heroes.
The president spoke shortly after the wreath ceremony to a full audience at the National Cemetery Amphitheater.
“To those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one today, my heart goes out to you. I love my daughters more than anything in the world, and I cannot imagine losing them. I can’t imagine losing a sister or brother or parent at war. The grief so many of you carry in your hearts is a grief I cannot fully know,” said Obama.
“Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay," he said. "But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts, and heeding the example they set.”
The president mentioned the Gold Star family members attending the ceremony, and how great a debt the nation owes to them. Military families are considered "Blue Star" if they have family members in the U.S. armed forces, but they are considered "Gold Star" if family members died in service.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were members of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS organization.
Dellona Selge, from Apple Valley, Minn., said she joined TAPS after her husband, Staff Sgt. Todd Selge was killed in action Sept. 3, 2009.
“It keeps you in the military family and it makes you feel better to be able to talk to others coming from the same place you are,” said Selge. “TAPS has seminars for wives, siblings and mothers of fallen Soldiers and that keeping in touch with each other is a great help.”
Other TAPS members in the audience echoed Selge’s comments.
“TAPS is a family group that has everyone in it associated with the service member,” said TAPS member Paulette Martone, from Prescott Valley, Ariz. “They give you a 1-800 number (1-800-959-8277) that you can call when you get into a situation and you need someone to talk to, and that really is all you need sometimes.”
TAPS is a 24/7 tragedy assistance resource for anyone who has suffered the loss of a military loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased or the circumstance of the death.