Amid prayer, tears and the tolling of bells, the Washington, D.C., region marked Memorial Day on Monday with pomp and parades and solemn tributes to those who have fallen in service to the nation.
On a warm and humid day that left most flags limp at half-staff, quiet crowds thronged the monuments and memorials on the Mall, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, where President Donald Trump left a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
At the World War II Memorial, where a prayer vigil was underway, Jacki Culin, the wife of an Operation Desert Storm veteran, wept as she spoke of the sacrifices of her husband, John, and his comrades.
"I'm so proud of them," she said, wiping away tears. "You don't lose sight of why you're here . . . It's very important to these guys. They live it. They breathe it. They're retired, but they're not out."
Nearby, Ray Chavez, 105, the country's oldest survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack, sat in his wheelchair, wearing a white and blue overseas cap bearing the name of his ship, the USS Condor.
The Condor, a minesweeper, spotted and reported an approaching Japanese submarine that heralded the attack.
Chavez said that at first, the Condor sailors thought it might be an American sub, but they realized a U.S. sub would not be in such a restricted area. "Then we knew it was a foreign submarine trying to get into the harbor," he said. The sub was later sunk.
As passersby rang a bronze memorial bell, Chavez said he was present to honor veterans who had gone before him.
Not far away, retired New York City Fire Department lieutenant Joe Torrillo stood in his blue uniform and told the story of how he was buried alive in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
Memorial Day, he said, honors those who gave their lives "so that each and every day of every single year, we Americans can say that we have a life that's second to no other."
And at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, members of the group Veterans for Peace took turns reading aloud parts of King's 1967 speech at New York's Riverside Church, where he condemned the Vietnam War.
"We consider [Memorial Day] to be a sacred day," said Doug Rawlings, 70, a Vietnam veteran and member of the group.
"We want people to realize there's more than" the 58,000 Americans lost in the war whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "As much as we recognize those lives, there are many, many people who were killed in that war."Matt McClain / The Washington Post
Brittany Jacobs sits with her son, Christian Jacobs, 6, near the grave of Christian's father, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher James Jacobs as they visit in observance of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery. Jacobs died during a training exercise in 2011.
Brittany Jacobs sits with her son, Christian Jacobs, 6, near the grave of Christian's father, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher James Jacobs as they visit in observance of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery. Jacobs died during a training exercise in 2011.(Matt McClain / The Washington Post)
"We're trying . . . to broaden the concept of Memorial Day, to enrich it, deepen it a little bit, with no disrespect," he said.
Across Independence Avenue, at the D.C. War Memorial, which honors Washington's 499 World War I dead, there was a display of blue and white artificial flowers left by the Scottish American Military Society.
But a century after the U.S. entry into World War I, there were few visitors to read the words etched into the cracked marble: "Those who fell and those who survived have given to this and to future generations an example of high idealism, courageous service and gallant achievement."
Later, on Constitution Avenue, thousands of people clad in red, white and blue gathered in the afternoon heat to watch Washington's annual parade.
In front of the National Museum of American History - on a good day for vendors of cold drinks - onlookers maneuvered to find shade beneath trees and lamp posts.
Bearded veterans rumbled by on motorcycles as graying veterans glided by in vintage jeeps. In front of and behind them, small-town high school bands marched, their drums beating and horns booming.
Contingents from Vietnam and South Korea carried messages of thanks for the U.S. soldiers who had fought alongside their troops.
All around, miniature American flags waved.
The president's day began as his motorcade left the White House for Arlington Cemetery around 10:40 a.m. Trump was accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and other officials.
After the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Trump spoke in the adjacent amphitheater.
He offered thanks for "the brave warriors who gave their lives for ours, spending their last moments on this earth in defense of this country and of its people."
"Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love, or the totality of their courage," he said. "We only hope that every day we can prove worthy."
After the speech, Trump went to the cemetery's Section 60 to visit the grave of the son of Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, according to the White House.
Kelly's son, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed on patrol when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan in 2010.
The secretary "understands more than most ever could or ever will the wounds and burdens of war," Trump said of him.
About the same time, U.S. Navy Capt. William Carroll, dressed in a white uniform, approached the bottom of the cemetery's Section 36.
He trudged up the hillside, retracing a walk that he first took nearly half a century ago.
"My family came up here in the snow one time," he said, motioning across the grass. "It was covered in ice."
At last, he arrived at Gravestone 1304. His grandfather, an Army corporal who served in World War I, had been buried there since 1957. At the base of the marble stone lay a yellow rose.
"It means a lot to me, this place," he said. "I've been coming here all my life."
He had just visited nearby Section 39, where his father, a veteran of World War II, is buried. Carroll, 54, has visited the cemetery more times than he can count, but Monday was especially meaningful. He plans to retire at the end of this year after 36 years in the Navy.
As he reminisced about his family's three generations of service to the country, the sound of ceremonial gunfire echoed through the oaks and maples, and Carroll went silent, then turned and saluted.
Earlier, at the towering Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the iconic flag-raising at Iwo Jima, Alan O'Donnell, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve and combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan, tried to explain the holiday to his 3-year-old son, Nathaniel.
On Sunday, O'Donnell showed his boy a photo of Staff Sgt. Jeremy Redding, who committed suicide in 2010 after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"This was one of daddy's best friends who was in the Marine Corps with him," O'Donnell, 35, told his son. But Redding was gone now.
"Where is he?" Nathaniel asked.
"He's in heaven."
On Monday morning, the boy gripped his father's hand as he peered up at the memorial.
"I wanted to bring my son," O'Donnell said. "Start the conversation about selfless service and sacrifice."
Nearby, a little girl paused as she passed a letter that had been placed over a bouquet of red carnations at the foot of the statue.
Above eight names was a message:
"In loving memory of those Marines and one sailor from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines who died in Vietnam under my command. October 1967 - January 1968. From your Skipper . . . Rest in Peace."
The girl read the note, then returned to her family. On the front of her blue, star-dotted shirt were three words: "Happy and Free."
The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.