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Biden invokes late son Beau in Memorial Day ceremony

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President Biden on Monday invoked the memory of his late son, Beau Biden, while addressing an audience at Arlington National Cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony

Sharing the pain of those whose family members have died in service, Biden noted this week marks nine years since he lost his son Beau, who served in Iraq and later died from brain cancer that the president attributes to his time stationed near toxic burn pits. 

Still, the president was careful to draw a distinction between the loss of his son and those who lost loved ones on the battlefield. 

President Joe Biden delivers the Memorial Day Address at the 156th National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“Our losses are not the same. He didn’t perish on the battlefield. He was a cancer victim from a consequence of being in the army in Iraq for a year next to a burn pit. A major of the U.S. National Army, National Guard, living and working, like too many, besides that toxic burn pit,” Biden said. 

The president told the audience: “As it is for so many of you, the pain of his loss is with me every day as it is with you. Still sharp. Still clear. But so is the pride I feel in this service, as if I can still hear him saying, ‘It’s my duty, dad. It’s my duty. That was the code of my son. Live by the creed. All of you live by the creed.” 

REPS. ILHAN OMAR, CORI BUSH MIX UP MEMORIAL DAY WITH VETERANS DAY IN SINCE-DELETED POSTS ON X

A major in the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.  

Reactions to Biden’s speech on X were mixed. One user described his speech as a “heart-wrenching display of empathy and understanding.” Others accused the president of making this “all about himself again.” 

Biden has on numerous occasions claimed that his son died on the battlefield in Iraq, including while speaking to Marines stationed in Japan, and during a 2022 speech in Colorado. 

President Joe Biden, left, joined by, from left, Vice President Kamala Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Major Gen. Trevor Bradenkamp, pause during an Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden began the day hosting a breakfast at the White House for administration officials, military leaders, veterans, and Gold Star family members. Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before the ceremony began. 

Biden touted the VA’s achievements last year for having delivered “more benefits and processed more claims than ever in our history.” 

He credited the PACT Act, which grants automatic coverage for certain health conditions suffered by veterans exposed to toxic substances such as burn pits or Agent Orange.

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“For too long after fighting for our nation, these veterans had to fight to get the right health care, to get the benefits they had earned, not anymore,” he said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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