ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. – President Barack Obama, speaking to dozens of troops at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington after his Land of Lincoln tribute in Illinois was washed out by a storm, said the nation’s fallen heroes had such a deep love of country that they willingly sacrificed their own lives to protect it.
Vice President Joe Biden earlier made the more traditional appearance at Arlington National Cemetery on Obama’s behalf, saying the country has “a sacred obligation” to make sure its servicemen and women are the best equipped and best-supported troops in the world.
Obama had readied a similar message of gratitude for his appearance at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., and actually had taken the podium to give the address when the skies opened up with a downpour and thunder, lightning and high winds.
Under the cover of a large umbrella, Obama asked thousands gathered to return to their cars for their safety, and he retreated briefly to an administration building on the cemetery’s grounds. A few minutes later Obama boarded a pair of buses to greet military families that came for the event.
At Arlington, Biden carried out the traditional wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns under brilliant sunshine.
The vice president, accompanied by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the country’s service members are “the heart and soul and, I would say, spine of this nation.”
Obama’s decision to appear in Illinois, rather than at the national burial grounds at Arlington, had been controversial, and some veterans groups criticized him for it.