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Trump Lays Wreath At Tomb Of Unknowns; Soon: Trump Speaks At Arlington; Nation Honors Fallen Heroes. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2017 - 11:00   ET





ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, the wreath ceremony is complete. The Memorial Day Service will begin shortly. Please move to your seats. Thank you.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for joining us this hour. The nation pauses to honor the sacrifice of our fallen heroes. Memorial Day ceremonies are getting under way at Arlington National Cemetery. A moving moment.

This is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members and their families, and President Trump just presided over his first Memorial Day service there at the Tomb of the Unknowns, where he just laid a wreath. He will be speaking shortly at the amphitheater.

He's already made some remarks this morning via Twitter writing, "Today we remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving. Thank you. God bless your families and God bless the USA."

[11:05:00]I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She is there at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 60. And Barbara, talk to us about the significance of that section.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is a place where we come every Memorial Day when we can and we thank Arlington for letting CNN be here and bring you these images. This is the place where so many who have fallen on the battlefield since 9/11 have come to their final resting place.

The 890 souls killed in action since the 9/11 attacks are buried here. The passage of time, the years, is quite remarkable from latest who have fallen on the battlefield just 22 years old. So back on 9/11, very small children on that day.

Here today we see what we have seen every year we have been here. Families, parents, grandparents, small children, battle buddies, they come, they pause, they pay their respects. And of course, this is going on at cemeteries in towns and cities all across this country today, as people remember those who served.

It is here, though, that it becomes a national moment. So many of those who were buried here fell in places and have become part of the national conversation. Places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Diallah Province in Iraq, in Afghanistan places like Kandahar, and if you'll permit me a special shout-out to some of those who fought in the valley of Afghanistan, their good buddies.

So this is a very special place. It's very meaningful. We have seen the same families in some cases year after year. We've watched their children grow up, many of them have come up to me this morning for a bit of a chat. What these families want is what military families want across this country. They just want to make sure they are never forgotten -- Ana.

CABRERA: Barbara Starr there at Arlington National Cemetery. We see the children, the families walking behind you. We know it is open to the public today, and they and all of us want to share their very best and show their respects and honor those who have fallen giving the ultimate sacrifice for our country for our freedoms. Barbara Starr, thank you.

Stay with us. We will come back to Barbara as we continue our special Memorial Day coverage here AT THIS HOUR. We'll take a quick break and be back in a moment.



CABRERA: Welcome back on this Memorial Day. We continue to watch live pictures there at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Where we saw the president lay a wreath a short time ago. We are awaiting the invocation by the chaplain.

That chaplain is Colonel Terry Austin with the U.S. Army and he will be giving that any moment as soon as he begins his remarks we will take you there live.

We are also awaiting remarks from the president, his first remarks since he returned from his nine-day overseas trip and his first Memorial Day, of course, as commander-in-chief. We anticipate those remarks here also later this hour.

We'll monitor these pictures. You see a huge crowd there at Arlington. This day meaning so much for so many families on a personal level and for our entire country as we honor those who gave their sacrifice, sacrificing their lives for all of us, for our freedom. And we see the vice president is also there in attendance at the ceremony.

I want to bring in a couple of guests with us, CNN military analyst, Retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.

General Hertling, to you first, first of all, we salute you, we honor your great service for our country as well as we also reflect on those who have died serving. Many American heroes, obviously made the ultimate sacrifice under your command. What does this day mean to you?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Ana, this is actually a very tough day for most who have seen the sacrifices, who have been with fellow soldiers, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen who have given the ultimate in defense of our country and in support of the Constitution.

So while a lot of people view this as the start of the summer and a great weekend to have picnics, I suggest that a lot of us who have worn the uniform and have seen combat have a lot different approach to this day. There's a lot of soul searching. There's a lot of memories.

There's certainly remembering those we served with that died. But there's a reflection, too, of how much more we can do to earn their sacrifices. And that's the message I try and give most Americans.

While you're enjoying your picnics and your day at the beach take a few moments and recommit yourselves to the service toward America, and toward the service to your fellow humans.

CABRERA: What do you recommend people do? How can we earn this sacrifice?

HERTLING: There are all sorts of things, Ana. They can contribute to organizations, one of our favorites is the program called TAPS, which takes care of the family members --

CABRERA: General Hertling, I hate to interrupt you. I want to continue this conversation as soon as we have another moment. We want to pause and listen to the invocation now.

ANNOUNCER: Major General Michael L. Hallard, commanding general, United States Army Military District of Washington, Ms. Karen Durham Aguilera, Executive Director, Army National Military, Cemetery Program. General Joseph S. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The honorable Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense.

[11:15:38](BAND PLAYING)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, the president of the United States.


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, Chaplain Austin.

COLONEL TURRY AUSTIN, U.S. ARMY CHAPLAIN: Let us pray. Almighty God, Prince of Peace, you have declared that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for their friends. Today as a nation we physically and symbolically stand among America's sons and daughters, patriots who have given their lives to ensure our freedoms.

We pause on this National Memorial Day to remember them for their sacrifice, and to honor their memory. Lord, I pray we may be more aware of just how blessed we are as a nation as we realize the price that's paid to have and maintain our freedom.

We also pray today for families and friends of those who have given their lives in service to our nation. We pray that they will be comforted and reassured that the sacrifice of their loved ones is not in vain, and they are not forgotten.

Lord we ask that you continue to give wisdom to our commander- in-chief, his administration, our elected officials, and the military leaders as they promote peace throughout our country and around the world.

Lord, today we have men and women deployed in harm's way and we ask that you will continue to watch over and bless them with strength and courage to be victorious, and we ask that they will come home soon.

We thank you, God, for our country and ask that you continue to bless America. We ask these things not of ourselves, but in accordance to your will, and the promise of peace throughout your holy name, as the Prince of Peace. Amen.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please join the United States Air Force Band in singing our national anthem.


[11:20:00]ANNOUNCER: Please be seated. Ladies and Gentlemen, General Dunford.

GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Mattis, distinguished guests, and most importantly, to our Gold Star families it's an honor to join you this morning in remembrance and reflection.

Since the founding of our republic more than 42 million Americans have stepped forward to serve their country in uniform. Their story is one of selflessness, it's one of courage, and it's one of pure commitment.

But the story is also one of extraordinary sacrifice. More than 1 million Americans who have answered the call to duty gave the last full measure of their devotion so their fellow citizens could live in freedom and raise their children in peace.

Today we honor the fallen on battlefields that serve as way points in our history, Saratoga to Gettysburg, Bellawood to Midway, Chosen to (inaudible), and Coren Gil Valley to Fallujah. Today we reflect on the enormity of the sacrifice. We reflect on the hopes and the dreams never realized.

Today we also reflect on the sacrifice to the families left behind. The anguish of parents, spouses, siblings and friends. The sadness of children growing up without their fathers or mothers. And we know that for the families, every day is Memorial Day.

But today we also reflect on what's most important about the men and women we honor. We reflect on how they lived. They stood for something larger than themselves. They were people who embodied the most important values and traditions of our nation.

They were people who understood that what we have in our country is worth fighting for and though they were taken from us prematurely they were people who touched our lives. They were people who made a difference.

Today, if we truly want to honor the fallen from all of our conflicts, we'll do something more than mark their graves with flags and flowers. We'll do something more than deliver remarks and reflect for just a few moments.

If we truly want to give meaning to the sacrifice of those who have given all on our behalf, each of us will leave here today determined to find, in some small way, a method of serving our nation and our communities in their honor.

If we do that, then I would offer that those of us who were taken from us prematurely will be able to look down and know that we truly do remember them. Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen that are still in uniform, thank you for remembering.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, listen now as the United States Air Force Band performs America the beautiful.


[11:26:33]ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, Secretary Mattis.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, Gold Star families, everyone, we gather here today with a shared attitude of gratitude.

Twenty three centuries ago an old Spartan King observed it is not the places that grace men, but men grace the places. Today, we know that he was right more than a century ago, this 624 acre plot of land was a plantation on the Potomac.

Scenic, but hardly sacred. Now these fields hold the greatest treasure of our nation, America's courageous dead. Those who today we pause to remember.

Not far from here, lies the marker of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a civil war infantry veteran who later rose to be a Supreme Court justice. Holmes said those who serve in our military have hearts that are touched with fire.

Having known great things, he said, they are content with silence. If you have ever known one of the fallen you've known greatness. But is hard to be content with their silence for we miss them. The empty chair on a holiday. Empty every day.

The photograph that goes wherever you do. The picture fades but that the person in it does not. Their fighting spirit persists, passed down through the ranks, their spirit echoes in those who serve today in the air, on land, and at sea.

In a world awash with change, some things stand firm, some things are as Plato said good and true and beautiful. The kid on the line who never had a chance to grow old will always be there to teach us that suffering has meaning if it is accepted out of love for others.

To the families of the fallen, both here and at home, no words will ease your pain, but I beg you let it have meaning. Unite your sorrow to their awesome purpose. People do grace places, but people also grace people.

We are blessed by our time with those now asleep, the mighty and the gentle. Let us share their story with others, then, like the poet, we all can say, sleep, soldiers, still in honored rest, your truth and valor wearing, the bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring.

Now Ladies and Gentlemen, it's my great honor to introduce our commander-in-chief, president of the United States, Donald Trump.