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Americans remember war dead on Memorial Day

May 25, 1998
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EDT (0345 GMT)

(CNN) -- Tens of thousands of Americans flocked to monuments, cemeteries and parades to honor the dead and remember wars past on Memorial Day, as thousands more spent the day off enjoying barbecues and picnics.

President Clinton honored both traditions as he spoke at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

"(As) spring turns to summer, Americans around the nation take this day to enjoy friends and families," Clinton said. "But we come again to Arlington to remember how much was given so we could enjoy this day and every day in freedom."

President Clinton speaks at Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery
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Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery; wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns
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Gallery of Photos

The president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, where less than two weeks ago the remains of a Vietnam veteran were exhumed for possible identification. He called the exhumation "the right course of action" to bring comfort to the soldier's family.

Standing in front of the memorial, Clinton said, "Whatever happens, we must always remember that that stone represents the many unknown soldiers still in Vietnam, in Korea, in other theaters where Americans lie far away from home, missing in action, still with us in spirit."

He also welcomed North Korea's return of the remains of two U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War. The remains were handed over in a ceremony in the truce village Panmunjom early Monday.

Back in the United States, it was a day of full-dress uniforms, brass bands and flags all across the nation:

CNN's Kyoko Altman reports on a memorial one hundred and thirty years in the making
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  • In Warrenton, Virginia, the names of 520 Confederate soldiers were recognized for the first time with a granite marker engraved with their names. The men died in the battles of Manassas. A man whose great-great-grandfather died at the site spent 18 years searching through hospital records, diaries and letters to identify the men.

  • In Maple Valley, Washington, federal and state lawmakers held the first Memorial Day service at Tahoma National Cemetery, the newest in the nation. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray urged World War II veterans to record their memories of service. She said she realized that history was being lost after her father, one of the first Americans to land at Okinawa, died last year.

  • In Los Angeles, a Navy band played at the Los Angeles National Cemetery as military personnel passed out snapdragons and lilies to everyone attending. The flowers were later placed in baskets and carried by helicopter to be scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Boy and Girl Scouts had decorated every grave in the cemetery with an American flag.

  • In Bellevue, Kentucky, veterans marched and residents watched the 69th annual Memorial Day parade, with the theme of honoring women in the military.

  • In Texas, crowds were smaller at lakes and state parks, apparently because of the smoke still hanging over the state from Mexican wildfires. Some people chose to go to the movies instead, and showings of "Godzilla" were sold out in Dallas.

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