US President Joe Biden lauded the sacrifice of generations of American troops who died fighting for their country as he marked Memorial Day with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr Biden was joined by first lady Jill Biden, vice president Kamala Harris and Mrs Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, for the 155th National Memorial Day Observance.
He had a moment of contemplation in front of the wreath, which was adorned with flowers and a red, white and blue bow, and later bowed his head in prayer.
Monday’s public holiday honouring America’s fallen service members came a day after Mr Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a final agreement on a deal that would raise America’s debt limit and now awaits approval by Congress.
As it stands, the agreement would keep non-defence spending roughly flat in the 2024 fiscal year and increase it by 1% the next year.
The measure would allow for 3% defence growth in fiscal 2024, to 886 billion US dollars (£717 billion), and then another 1% in fiscal 2025, to 895 billion dollars (£724.3 billion).
Mr Biden has taken pride in the fact his Democratic administration has overseen a time of relative peace for the US military after two decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It has been nearly 21 months since Mr Biden ended the US’s longest war in Afghanistan, making good on a campaign promise to end a 20-year-old “forever war” that cost the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. service members.
The war in Afghanistan, however, ended in deadly and chaotic fashion on Mr Biden’s watch in August 2021, with critics blasting the administration’s handling of the evacuation of some 120,000 American citizens, Afghans and others as poorly planned and badly executed.
The Biden administration last month released a review of the last days of the war, largely blaming his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, and asserting that Mr Biden was “severely constrained” by Mr Trump’s decisions.
The US now finds itself leading a coalition of allies pouring tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid into Ukraine as it tries to repel the Russian invasion, which appears to have no end in sight.
While making clear he has no desire for US troops to enter the conflict, Mr Biden has maintained that he sees the Russian effort to grab territory as an affront to international norms and has vowed to help Kyiv win, sending artillery, tanks and drones and recently agreeing to allow allies to train Ukrainian military on American F-16 jets.
Before Monday’s ceremony at the Virginia cemetery, the Bidens hosted a breakfast at the White House for members of veterans organisations, military service and military family organisations, surviving families of fallen US troops, senior Department of Defence officials and other administration officials.