NEW YORK — The nation is marking Memorial Day weekend with somber ceremonies, flag planting at cemeteries and parades while President Barack Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Sunday to visit U.S. troops.
In New York City, Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben gave a sermon Sunday at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Afterward, worshippers including sailors, marines and Coast Guard members visiting the city for Fleet Week planned to tie memorial ribbons on the church’s fence.
There will be gold ribbons for service members killed in Afghanistan, green ribbons representing prayers for peace and blue ribbons for the people of Afghanistan.
Obama arrived at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to speak with troops and visit soldiers being treated at a base hospital. At least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.
On Saturday, Democratic congresswoman Tammy Duckworth served as grand marshal of Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade and struggled to hold back tears during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor fallen soldiers. She lost her legs and partial use of an arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting in Iraq in 2004.
More than 300 Junior ROTC students from Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville marched in the city’s parade. Afterward, still dressed in their uniforms, they chatted, bantered and ordered ice cream from a vendor’s truck while waiting for a bus that would take them back home.
Their instructor, 1st Sgt. Stephen Roberts, an Army veteran, said the students practice all year to march in the parade.
“They enjoy it a lot,” Roberts said. “We tell them about it at the beginning of the year. Our rifle, our drum teams, our flags, they practice every day. They come in on their own accord. They do their own practices. It means a lot to them. They’re very proud to do this.”
In Massachusetts, Boston Marathon survivor Jeff Bauman and his rescuer, Carlos Arredondo, helped plant tens of thousands of flags Saturday at a cemetery to honor soldiers.
Obama directed all government agencies in the United States to fly their flags at half-staff Monday in observance of Memorial Day.