(CNN) — President Joe Biden marked Memorial Day by paying tribute to “those who died so our nation might live” during his annual speech on the day that the US honors those who have served and died in its service.
“Every year as a nation, we undertake this right of remembrance, for we must never forget the price that was paid to protect our democracy. We must never forget the lives these flags, flowers and marble markers represent,” he said during his speech at Arlington National Cemetery, famed for its rows upon rows of white marble headstones. “A mother, a father, son or daughter, sister, spouse, a friend, an American – every year we remember, every year it never gets easier.”
During the somber ceremony at Arlington, Biden laid a wreath honoring service members who have died. Approximately 3,000 people attended the service, according to the White House.
In addition to Biden, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also spoke.
During his speech touted steps that his administration had taken to care for veterans and their families.
“It’s a sacred obligation, not based on party or politics, but on a promise – a promise to unite all of us. There’s nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American,” he said. “Together, over the last two-and-a-half years, we worked to make good on that promise, passing more than 25 bipartisan laws to support our service members, their families, caregivers and survivors.”
He drew from his family’s own personal experience, noting that Tuesday is the eighth anniversary of his son, Beau Biden’s, death from cancer.
“Tomorrow marks eight years since we lost our son Beau,” he said. “Our loss is not the same – he didn’t perish in the battlefield, it was cancer that stole him … after being deployed as a major in the United States Army National Guard in Iraq. As it is for so many of you, the pain of his loss is with us every day, but particularly sharp on Memorial Day.”
Biden has said he believes there may have been a connection between the brain cancer that killed Beau Biden and the burn pits Beau Biden was exposed to during his tour in Iraq. Burn pits were commonly used to burn waste – including trash, munitions, hazardous material and chemical compounds – at military sites throughout Iraq and Afghanistan until about 2010. These massive open-air burn pits, which were often operated at or near military bases, released dangerous toxins into the air that, upon exposure, may have caused short- and long-term health conditions, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Biden signed the PACT Act into law last year that expanded health care benefits to millions of veterans who were exposed to burn pits during their service, and it was among the pieces of legislation he touted during his speech on Monday.