President Obama honored the nation's fallen heroes Monday by laying a wreath near the burial grounds at Abraham Lincoln Cemetery in Illinois.
But later, he had to cut short a speech when thunderstorms moved in. "We don't want to endanger anyone, particularly the children in the audience," President Obama said as lightning bolts lit up the sky.
It was a rare break in Memorial Day tradition: presidents typically lead the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. But this year, Vice-President Joe Biden laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
"We take pride, great pride, in the lives they lived and the service they provided," Vice-President Biden said.
It's another Memorial Day cast against two ongoing wars. The president is slowly drawing down troops in Iraq, but ramping up efforts in Afghanistan which has now become the nation's longest war ever.
At Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, 400 soldiers stood at attention, remembering the friends they've lost here. May has been the deadliest month so far this year and the American death toll in Afghanistan just reached the grim milestone of 1,000.
Connecticut resident Tom Platt worries the wars are no longer worth the blood. "I think a lot of these deaths shouldn't be happening," Platt said. "If we weren't there they wouldn't be happening."
For the Deal family from Tennessee, a Memorial Day visit to Washington comes with a message to their children. "We just want them to recognize and appreciate what our soldiers do for them everyday," said Shannon Deal."
On this day, a grateful nation honors that sacrifice.