ATLANTA — Americans gathered at memorials, museums and monuments and the president laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery to honor fallen service members on Memorial Day, as combat in Afghanistan approaches 12 years and the ranks of World War II veterans dwindle.
“Let us not forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” President Barack Obama said after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
“When they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington,” he said. He told the stories of three soldiers who had died. Each had been devoted to their mission and were praised by others for saving lives.
Hours later, veterans from conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan and Iraq gathered in Atlanta to dedicate a new veterans’ park. Soldiers, airmen, Marines and seamen looked on as veterans and military family members sprinkled soil, sand and water from battlefields and waterways across the world.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined military leaders and others at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Manhattan. He later encouraged New Yorkers to celebrate the day and the good weather but also “remember the sacrifice that was made so that we could be here.”
Once again aboard the historic USS Hornet, 83-year-old Dale Berven reflected on his tour of duty in Korea as a naval aviator as he took in the commemoration. As the bugle corps warmed up, Berven looked out from the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier docked in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, which ferried him around the world in a goodwill tour in 1954, the year after the Korean War ended.
In South Sioux City, Neb., a statue honoring a Navy dog handler was unveiled in his hometown. The statue of Petty Officer 1st Class John Douangdara and his dog, Bart, is part of a five-acre dog park that’s named for Douangdara. Douangdara died along with 29 other Americans in August 2011 when a military helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
Across much of New England, several days of heavy rain gave way to sunny skies for parades in towns large and small.
In Portland, Maine, kids and even pets displayed the Stars and Stripes as veterans, youth groups, law enforcement officials and civic organizations paraded to Monument Square to the tunes of a marching band, sirens from a police car and the rumble of motorcycles.
In Connecticut, a Waterford man who was killed in the Vietnam War was honored with a hometown park area named for him. Arnold E. Holm Jr., nicknamed “Dusty,” was killed when his helicopter was shot down on June 11, 1972.
At the American Airpower Museum on Long Island, N.Y., a program honored Women Air Service Pilots, or WASPs, who tested and ferried completed aircraft from factories to bases during World War II.
Thirty-eight died during the war, including Alice Lovejoy of Scarsdale, N.Y., who was killed on Sept. 13, 1944, in a midair collision over Texas.
“It’s very important that we recognize not only their contribution to American history, but women’s history,” said Julia Lauria-Blum, curator of the WASP exhibit at the museum. “These women really blazed a path. And most important, they gave their lives serving their country and must be honored like anyone else on Memorial Day.”