President Donald Trump, who has expressed regret for skipping a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, made an unscheduled stop at the site Saturday under drizzling skies to observe the thousands of Christmas wreaths left each year at military grave sites.
In rainy, 53-degree weather, Trump traveled to the 624-acre U.S.military cemetery without the usual presidential coterie of advisers and staffers.
He was visiting Section 60, where military personnel killed in the Global War on Terror since 2001 are interred.
Holding a black umbrella in his left hand, the commander-in-chief — wearing an overcoat and red and white striped tie — strode among the grave sites. Volunteers led by Wreaths Across America have placed wreaths on headstones.
The visit in a steady rain offered a touch of irony, since the White House had blamed rain for the president’s decision not to visit a U.S. cemetery in France last month, which marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
With a guide in a yellow slicker at his side, Trump walked slowly among the grave sites, most of them adorned with the Christmas wreaths. Some bearing the Star of David were not.
Apparently praising the annual work by Wreaths Across America, Trump could be overheard saying, “They’re doing a great job.”
The president also spoke briefly to reporters about expanding the crowded cemetery property, where over 400,000 men and women are buried. An average of 25 burials are performed each day at Arlington National Cemetery.
Last month, in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Trump expressed regret for not visiting the cemetery during Veterans Day weekend, saying that he was prevented from doing so because he was “extremely busy on calls for the country.”
“In retrospect, I should have, and I did last year, and I will virtually every year,” he said.
In 2017, Trump was in Vietnam on Veterans Day and met with veterans there in lieu of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington.
Days after he was criticized for canceling a trip to a WWI cemetery in Paris and not visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, President Donald Trump honored the nation’s veterans and touted his administration’s commitment. (Nov. 15)
During his visit to France, Trump did not attend the ceremony at Aisne Marne American Cemetery because of inclement weather, according to White House officials.
Although other dignitaries and U.S. officials made the trip, White House officials said the bad weather grounded a planned helicopter ride to the site and that a presidential motorcade would have disrupted traffic throughout the area.
The site of Arlington National Cemetery, once an estate owned by Gen. Robert E. Lee, is less than five miles from the White House, just across the Potomac River.
The land was first used as a military cemetery in 1864 following the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil War.
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