President Joe Biden marked his first Memorial Day weekend as commander in chief by paying tribute to those lost, while also remembering his late son Beau, an Iraq war veteran, who died six years ago to the day.
Mr Biden made his annual appearance at the commemoration in New Castle, not far from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, a day before visiting Arlington National Cemetery for the official observance.
The Memorial Day weekend took on added poignancy this year as the president spoke frequently and emotionally of his own loss while expressing the gratitude of a nation for the sacrifices of others.
"I can't thank you enough for the continued service for the country," said Mr Biden, addressing a crowd of Gold Star military families and other veterans in a ceremony at War Memorial Plaza in the shadow of Delaware Memorial Bridge.
"I know how much the loss hurts.
"They're the guardians of us and we're the guardians of their legacy," Mr Biden said of those who served in the armed forces.
"Despite all the pain, I know the pride you feel in the loved one you have lost."
Mr Biden had attended the ceremony nearly every year for decades, and it was at last year's event when he emerged for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, spotted with a mask while laying a wreath.
His eldest son, Beau Biden, died from brain cancer aged 46.
He had served in Delaware's National Guard before going on to become Delaware's attorney general.
At Virginia air force base on Friday, Mr Biden told the story of when Beau deployed to Iraq and received permission to wear a uniform emblazoned with a different last name so as not to receive special treatment.
After the emotional remembrance of his late son, Mr Biden acknowledged the unheralded sacrifices made by the service members and their families.
He said: "You are the very best of what America has to offer."
Mr Biden also underscored his recent decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan later this year, expressing gratitude to service members who took multiple tours of duty in America’s longest war.
He largely avoided the particulars of international affairs on Sunday, although he pledged to press Russia's president Vladimir Putin on human rights during their summit in Geneva next month and said that the moment was right to show the world, and namely China, that the US was ready to lead again after four years of a largely inward-looking foreign policy under President Donald Trump.
He said: "It's time to remind everybody who we are."
Cover image: President Joe Biden at a Memorial Day Ceremony in New Castle, Delaware (Picture: Saquan Stimpson/CNP Photo via Credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News).