President Joe Biden vowed to remember and honor America's fallen service members in remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday as part of a day of events commemorating veterans and their families.
"If we forget what they sacrificed, what they made so that our nation might endure, strong, free and united, then we forget who we are," Biden said. "Today, we renew our sacred vow — a simple vow — to remember."
The president and first lady Jill Biden were also joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.
After laying the wreath of red and white roses wrapped in red, white and blue ribbon in front of the tomb, Biden, standing at attention under a cloudless sky in the late May heat, saluted as taps played.
He also addressed division at home and abroad, saying the nation’s experiment in democracy remains under threat.
He called upholding democracy “the mission of our time.”
“Our memorial to them must not be just a day when we pause and pray,” Biden said. “It must be a daily commitment to act, to come together, to be worthy of the price that was paid.”
The president and first lady, whose veteran son Beau died of brain tumor in 2015, attended church near their home in Delaware and visited their son's grave early Monday morning.
After flying back to the White House, they hosted a closed Memorial Day breakfast in the East Room with 130 or so members of veteran organizations, military family groups and senior Defense Department and other administration officials.
The Bidens also planned to honor families of fallen service members by planting a magnolia tree on the White House South Lawn.
Earlier Monday, Biden spoke to reporters about gun legislation, saying the “Second Amendment was never absolute” and that, after last week's Texas elementary school shooting, there may be some bipartisan support to tighten restrictions on the kind of high-powered weapons used by the gunman.
"I think things have gotten so bad that everybody’s getting more rational, at least that’s my hope,” Biden told reporters on the White House lawn after returning to Washington.
His comments came a day after the president traveled to the shattered Texas community of Uvalde, mourning privately for three-plus hours with anguished families grieving for the 19 children and two teachers who died in the shooting. Faced with chants of “do something” as he departed a church service, Biden pledged: “We will.”
As he arrived from Delaware for Memorial Day events, Biden was asked if he's now more motivated to see new federal limits imposed on firearms.
“I’ve been pretty motivated all along," he said. “I’m going to continue to push and we’ll see how this goes.”
In Congress, a bipartisan group of senators talked over the weekend to see if they could reach even a modest compromise on gun legislation after a decade of mostly failed efforts. That included encouraging state “red flag” laws to keep guns away from those with mental health problems.
“The Second Amendment was never absolute," Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed. You couldn’t go out and buy a lot of weapons.”
There is nowhere near enough support from congressional Republicans for broader gun measures popular with the public — like a new ban on assault-type weapons or universal background checks on gun purchases. Still, Democratic advocates hope meaningful measures could still pass.