South Bend, Indiana (CNN)Calling Memorial Day "a day beyond politics," Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Monday reflected on the holiday's meaning and paid tribute to the members of the military he served with in Afghanistan.
Pete Buttigieg says he wants to 'live a life that's worthy' of fellow service members
"I'm thinking of folks I've served with who were killed or injured and the sacrifice that they made and that the fact that there's no real way to justify the fact that I came back and they didn't, other than that I can do everything in my power to live a life that's worthy of what it took in order to make it possible to be here at home," Buttigieg, who deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer with the US Navy Reserve, told CNN.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor struck a similar contemplative tone as he delivered remarks at a wreath-laying at a baseball park in downtown South Bend.
"This is a day that is beyond politics as Americans of every persuasion, of every background, of every generation pause to remember the sacrifice needed in order to keep America secure," he told the crowd. "It is something in common for Americans who may have very little in common, other than the fact of being American, and it serves us well to come together at a time like this."
He reflected on the sacrifices made by service members and what that means on Memorial Day.
"Some ask whether it is inappropriate for us to go about American life, to attend baseball games and spend time with our family at cookouts on a day like this," he said." I believe it is appropriate, because it is normal, in order to make this life available to us, that so deep of a price was paid by so many. But it is fitting that we stop and honor all of those that made that sacrifice, from the most recent losses in the global war on terror and other conflicts, to the very first blood spilled in the American Revolution."
Later, in a gaggle with reporters, the mayor, who has been busy on the campaign trail, said he was happy to be back in his hometown for the holiday.
"To me, it's first of all an opportunity to express South Bend's respect for the sacrifice required in order to secure our way of life, I also think it's a time when we bring two different things together: the celebration of life itself, and time with family, and all the reasons why we care enough to have a military and have those sacrifices, and on the other hand a recognition of what happened, often very far away from here, in order to make it all possible," Buttigieg told CNN. "It's tough sometimes to hold those two things in your mind, but that's what exactly why we have that observance, and I'm glad to be part of it."
Buttigieg also said the day held special meaning for him because the wreath-laying allowed him to return to Four Winds Field -- the site of his first date with his husband, teacher Chasten Buttigieg.
"You know it's always special when we come back here, first of all there's few better feelings in life than walking into a minor league baseball stadium in a city you're the mayor of, but it's also a very special memory because Chasten and I came here, now four summers ago, on a first date, and the rest is history," Buttigieg told CNN. "So, every time we're here we see improvements, we run into friends, we meet new people, and it's just good clean fun, especially on Memorial Day."
Buttigieg kicked off the day's festivities by marching in the South Bend Memorial Day parade, where he ran the bulk of the parade route's 1.4 miles, greeting supporters along the way. After the parade, he took the opportunity to call for increased support for veterans.
"Even for me, coming off active duty to return to my job as mayor, even that was a big adjustment. The biggest thing is community, and we need to make sure that our communities lift people up," Buttigieg told reporters gathered at the end of the parade route. "I invite people to do more than just say, 'Thank you for your service.' "