This Memorial Day, President Obama will not be going to Arlington National Cemetery. Instead, Vice President Joe Biden will be providing the executive branch honors. President Obama will be attending Memorial Day services at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside of Chicago. This change of pace has some people outraged.
According to the Washington Post:
Instead of speaking at Arlington, as he did last year and as most presidents have done, Obama will appear at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, the White House said. Vice President Biden will take his place at Arlington, the most prestigious military cemetery in the country and home to Section 60, a large burial ground for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed disappointment at the White House move. “Arlington is hallowed ground, and the center of our nation’s attention on Memorial Day,” Rieckhoff said. “Unfortunately, President Obama and his family will not be there with us.”
Critics — mainly conservatives — have argued that attendance is more important with two wars ongoing. “Obama may talk about the government in the first person, but the men and women lying at Arlington know differently,” commentator Eric Erickson wrote on the conservative site Redstate.com. “Of course, Obama really doesn’t like the military, does he.” Fox News blared the headlines: “Trampling on Tradition?” and “Offensive to Soldiers?”
Many veterans don’t think it matters which National Cemetery the President recognizes. There are National Cemeteries all over the United States. Abraham Lincoln established the first 14 National Cemeteries. It seems fitting that the President would attend the one honoring the 16th president.
As far as tradition goes, it might be appropriate to remind the critics that tradition only goes back less than 150 years. Arlington National Cemetery is the former plantation of Robert E. Lee. No soldiers were buried there until towards the end of the Civil War. Lee actually lost the mansion because he couldn’t pay taxes on the place. Additionally, other presidents have not attended Memorial Day ceremonies for numerous reasons:
Obama is not the first president to miss the Arlington ceremony. Ronald Reagan spoke at West Point one year, and went to his California ranch another year. George H.W. Bush, a war veteran, did not go at all. Bill Clinton, who did not serve in Vietnam and had a rocky time with the military, went to Arlington all eight years, and George W. Bush, who also avoided combat service in Vietnam, attended from 2003 onward.
We need to leave politics and honor the war dead. Moonhowlings.net will try to feature something about Memorial Day each of the days over the holiday weekend. Regardless of how one feels about this war, or that war, or the other…we love our vets and we honor those who have died in service, so that we might live free.