For Biden, a deeply personal Memorial Day weekend observance

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President Joe Biden speaks at a Memorial Day event at Veterans Memorial Park at the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Castle, Del., Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

NEW CASTLE, Del. – President Joe Biden marked his first Memorial Day weekend as commander in chief by honoring the nation’s sacrifices in a deeply personal manner as he paid tribute Sunday to those lost while remembering his late son Beau, a veteran who died six years ago to the day.

As a cold rain fell, Biden made his annual appearance at the commemoration in New Castle, not far from his Wilmington home, a day before he planned to do the same at Arlington National Cemetery on the official observance.

The death of his son from brain cancer at age 46 is ever-present for the elder Biden, with the loss defining so much of his worldview, dotting his speeches and stirring his empathy for others in pain.

The Memorial Day weekend, long an important moment for Biden, took on added poignancy this year as the president spoke frequently and emotionally of his own loss while expressing the gratitude of a nation for the sacrifices of others.

“I can’t thank you enough for the continued service for the country,” said Biden, addressing a crowd of Gold Star military families and other veterans in a ceremony at War Memorial Plaza in the shadow of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. “I know how much the loss hurts.”

“They’re the guardians of us and we’re the guardians of their legacy,” Biden said of those who served in the armed forces. “Despite all the pain, I know the pride you feel in the loved one you have lost.”

Though a tent was overhead, the cold wind whipped the rain onto the guests as they watched a lone military trumpeter play taps at a memorial to Delaware’s fallen troops. Biden appeared to pay the chill no mind, remaining for the entirety of the 75-minute ceremony and mouthing the words to the closing rendition of “God Bless America.” When it was time, he snapped a salute to the wreath laid at the memorial.

Biden had attended the ceremony nearly every year for decades, and it was at last year’s event when he emerged for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, spotted with a mask while laying a wreath.