Obama walks in rain-soaked cemetery of U.S. war dead
President Barack Obama walked in the rain among the graves of U.S. casualties from the Iraq and Afghan wars at Arlington National Cemetery and took an unscheduled detour into section 60, a thicket of simple white headstones, to mark Veterans Day.
Underscoring the poignancy of the visit, Obama was due to hold a war council later on Wednesday as he tries to decide whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, where U.S. forces experienced their bloodiest month in October.
The president, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, bent down briefly at the headstone of 19-year-old Specialist Ross McGinnis, who was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor.
McGinnis was killed when he threw himself onto a grenade during a patrol in Baghdad in 2006.
The first couple, bareheaded and ignoring the miserable weather, spoke and shook hands with visitors they found by the gravesides, one of whom Michelle Obama hugged.
The president, confronted by fading public support for the war, is expected to decide in coming weeks about boosting U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, even as he draws them down in Iraq.
His stop at a section of Arlington Cemetery in Virginia that is the burial ground for U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan followed the somber Veterans Day ceremony at which Obama acknowledged the cost of fighting in both places.
“In this time of war, we gather here mindful that the generation serving today already deserves a place alongside previous generations for the courage they have shown and the sacrifices that they have made,” he said.
More than 4,300 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and some 900 in Afghanistan.
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama in Arlington National Cemetery to mark Veterans Day)