President Barack Obama observed during remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday that this year is the first Memorial Day in 14 years “that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.”
“It’s the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end,” Obama said, adding that for “many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful.”
There are nearly 10,000 American servicemen and women still stationed in Afghanistan serving in non-combat roles, a higher number than Obama originally pledged when he announced his Afghanistan draw-down plan last year. The administration cited security concerns when it announced in March that a higher number of troops would remain there.
“On this day we honor the sacrifice of thousands of American service members – men and women who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan,” Obama said Monday.
Obama and members of his administration have repeatedly pledged to end the Afghanistan war, including during his campaign for reelection in 2012. The 9,800 troops currently in Afghanistan are a small fraction of the 100,000 once stationed there.
He later added at Arlington that many Americans don’t fully witness the sacrifices veterans make for their country: “The sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted.”
“Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you,” he said.