During a ceremony for Memorial Day, May 29, at the Arlington National Ceremony, President Donald Trump delivered a speech recognizing the soldiers who lost their lives in service.
His remarks marked his arrival back in the United States after a nine-day trip to the Middle East, where he sought to bridge divides between the three Abrahamic religions in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican City.
The Memorial Day ceremony began with the laying of the wreaths, then Trump addressed the audience with statements that touched on the sacrifices soldiers make. He also paid respect to Secretary John Kelly who was in attendance, and whose son Robert Kelly died serving in Afghanistan.
Trump’s speech also addressed Gold Star families – American families whose relatives have died in battle. “They each had their own names, their own stories, their own beautiful dreams,” Trump said of the fallen relatives of Gold Star families. “But they were all angels sent to us by God, and they all share one title in common – and that is the title of hero.”
Trump famously feuded with a Gold Star family during his campaign when he criticized Ghazala and Khizr Khan, a Muslim American family whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, died in 2004 while serving in Iraq.
The Khans had spoken out against Trump at the Democratic National Convention. In response, Trump tweeted a series of criticisms, including suggesting that Khizr’s wife, Ghazala, did not speak at the event because Khizr would not let her. A letter signed by 26 Gold Star families called on Trump to apologize to the Khans. Trump has not yet done so.
But at the Memorial Day ceremony on May 29, Trump said Gold Star families honor the nation with their sacrifice.
In addition to speaking about the Kellys and Gold Star families, Trump also singled out Senator Bob Doyle, a World War II veteran who was wounded by Germans, pointing out that he would soon celebrate his 94th birthday. “Thank you, Bob. We thank you not only for your service, but for helping us to remember your fallen comrades and the countless American patriots who gave their lives in the Second World War,” Trump said.
Trump’s speech also highlighted the families of two soldiers – Specialist Christopher Horton and Mayor Andrew Byers. Horton passed in 2011 in Pakistan, three months into his deployment, when he was hit by enemy fire. Byers died in November 2016 in Afghanistan, shot by Taliban fire during a special force operation.
Trump’s speech also quoted from the iconic letter to Sarah Ballou written by Union soldier Sullivan Ballou, who penned the now-famous letter to his wife a week before being mortally wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run.
“If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name,” Trump quoted.
“That is the love we hear whispering throughout this sacred place and from every tombstone on these hallowed grounds,” he followed. “It is the love that binds this earth beneath us and it bleeds from the hearts of all of those who died so that we might live free.”
Response to Trump’s speech on Memorial Day has been overwhelmingly positive, with ABC describing it as a “solemn tribute” and New York Magazine author Ed Kilgore calling it “entirely appropriate and occasionally eloquent.”
However, Kilgore noted that Trump did not bring up Ricky Best. Best was one of the two men killed in Portland after attempting to confront white supremacist Jeremy Christian, who was shouting racist anti-Muslim obscenities at two young girls on the train. He was also a 23-year veteran who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a public servant for most of his career.
[Featured Image By Getty Images/Pool]