Obama thanks troops ahead of Memorial Day

President Obama called on Saturday for Americans to remember fallen U.S. soldiers as they celebrate Memorial Day this weekend.

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Obama acknowledged in his weekly address that many Americans will mark the occasion, which is also considered the unofficial start of summer, with beach trips and barbecue cookouts.

But he said they should also remember the official reason for the holiday.

"They are heroes, each and every one," Obama said of soldiers who have been killed in battle. "They gave America the most precious thing they had – 'the last full measure of devotion.' And because they did, we are who we are today – a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world."

Obama said Americans should get "a little fun and relaxation in before heading back to work" on Tuesday. But he also suggested setting aside "some time, on our own or with our families, to honor and remember all the men and women who have given their lives in service to this country we love."

"At a time when only about one percent of the American people bear the burden of our defense, the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform isn’t always readily apparent," Obama said.

He added that "every time a threat has risen, Americans have risen to meet it. And because of that courage – that willingness to fight, and even die – America endures."

"That is the purpose of Memorial Day," Obama said. "To remember with gratitude the countless men and women who gave their lives so we could know peace and live in freedom.

"And we must do more than remember," he continued. "We must care for the loved ones that our fallen service members have left behind. We must make sure all our veterans have the care and benefits they’ve earned, and the jobs and opportunity they deserve. We must be there for the military families whose loved ones are in harm’s way – for they serve as well."