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.