President Biden participated in a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor members of the military who died serving their country.
Mr. Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
First lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff also participated in the event.
The solemn ceremony came a day after Mr. Biden delivered remarks in Delaware to honor military sacrifice and the death of his late son, Beau, who had served in Iraq and later died of brain cancer in 2015.
Speaking in personal terms Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware, Mr. Biden said the death of his son, who rose to the rank of major in the Delaware Army National Guard, has given his family a firm understanding of “how much the loss hurts.”
“I know the black hole it leaves in the middle of your chest. It feels like you might get sucked into it and not come out,” he said of fallen military members and their families.
“While I know nothing I can say to ease the pain, I just know that each year it gets a little bit, a little bit, easier,” Mr. Biden said. “Despite all the pain, I know the pride you feel in the loved one you have lost,” he said.
The president said members of the armed services are “the guardians of us, and we’re the guardians of their legacy.
“Our military community is the solid spine of this country,” Mr. Biden said. “It is literally the spine of the nation.”
“On my first Memorial Day as commander-in-chief, I want to confirm my long-standing belief: We may have many obligations as a nation, but we only have one truly sacred obligation and that is to equip those we send into harm’s way with all they need, care for them and their families when they return home, and when they don’t,” Mr. Biden said.
Before Sunday’s ceremony, the president, Mrs. Biden and other family members attended a memorial Mass for Beau Biden at their local church.
After the service, the Bidens greeted well-wishers outside the church and, for the first time in more than a year, were able to receive warm hugs and handshakes at their home parish.
The Bidens walked to Beau’s grave, which is on the property of St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine, and left flowers amid several American flags that had been placed on the well-manicured lawn next to the marker.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.