Biden honors fallen troops on Memorial Day, urges help for soldiers exposed to ‘burn pits’

President Joe Biden participates in a wreath-laying ceremony on Monday to commemorate Memorial Day, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI

May 30 (UPI) — President Joe Biden remembered his son Beau and called for legislation to help military personnel exposed to toxic burn pits during his Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.

Beau Biden, a member of the Army National Guard and Delaware Attorney General, died of brain cancer in 2015. In his remarks, the president said he suspects the cancer was a result of the toxic burn pits that the military used to burn waste products. Beau Biden served in Iraq.

“Comprehensive legislation is advancing in Congress that would deliver healthcare services and benefits to veterans impacted by toxic exposures,” President Biden said in his remarks Monday.

“Who knows how many American service members may have died because of what they were exposed to on the battlefield from toxic smoke and burn pits.”

Biden said he knows first-hand the feeling of losing someone and how Memorial Day feels like “pain and pride were mixed together.”

“I know the ceremony has reopened that black hole that sets in your chest and pulls you in,” he said. “[Beau] was a decorated soldier with a Bronze Star. He didn’t die in the line of duty. He came home from Iraq with cancer.

“On Memorial Day I see him not as he was the last time I held his hand, but the day I pinned his bars on him as a second lieutenant.”

Biden told military families at the ceremony that their loved one were “a part of something bigger than any of us” and that they lived a life of purpose.

“Above all, they believed in duty. They believed in honor,” he added. “We are free because they were brave. You live by the light flame of liberty they kept burning that’s still with us no matter how long ago we lost them.”

Before his address, Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the cemetery as part of Memorial Day, which remembers active military service members who died on duty.

Earlier, Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted a closed-door breakfast in the East Room of the White House.


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