Obama leads country in celebrating Memorial Day

U.S. President Barack Obama positions a commemorative wreath during a ceremony on Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on May 28, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. For Memorial Day President Obama is paying tribute to military veterans past and present who have served and sacrificed their lives for their country. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama positions a commemorative wreath during a ceremony on Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on May 28, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. For Memorial Day President Obama is paying tribute to military veterans past and present who have served and sacrificed their lives for their country. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama led the nation in commemorating Memorial Day, declaring the United States has reached “a pivotal moment” in Afghanistan with the end of war approaching by year’s end.

Obama, who returned just hours earlier from a surprise visit with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, paid tribute to those lost in battle there and elsewhere over history. He called them “patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice” for their country. Obama said that “many of us will never know” the courage and sacrifice of parents and loved ones across America who have lost a child, spouse, brother, sister or friend in war.

And he made a fleeting reference to the widening scandal involving reports of poor performance by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is facing allegations of delayed treatments, and even deaths in Arizona. Obama said the country owes it to its veterans the care they need.

Closing his brief remarks, he said, “May God Bless the fallen and all those who have served and watch over their families.”

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