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Biden honors 'legacy' and 'sacrifice' of fallen soldiers in Memorial Day speech

President Biden on Monday honored those who have made the "ultimate sacrifice” on behalf of the U.S. during his Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.

Biden also pointed to those who have continued to “stand watch” across the globe and gave their lives in recent decades during conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East. 

Biden, who before his speech participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, said that long after the federal holiday was initially established in recognition of fallen Civil War soldiers, Americans are still tasked with defending democracy at home and abroad. 

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“Americans stand watch around the world, often with great personal peril,” he said. “War and conflict, death and loss, are not relics of our American history; They're part of American story.” 

“Here in Arlington lie heroes who gave what President Lincoln called ‘the last full measure of devotion,’ ” the president said before Armed Forces members and Gold Star families. 

“They did not only die at Gettysburg or in Flanders Field on the beaches of Normandy, but in the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Iraq in the last 20 years,” Biden added. 

“Hundreds of graves are here from recent conflicts,” Biden noted. “Hundreds of patriots gave their all, each of them leaving behind a family who live with their pain and their absence every single day.”

Biden then pulled out a card he said he has carried since he served as vice president, which he updates with the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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“Today, that number is 7,036,” he said. “7,036 fallen angels who have lost their lives in these conflicts.” 

“This Memorial Day, we honor their legacy and their sacrifice, duty, honor to their country,” he added. 

His remarks come as the Biden administration is working to carry out its goal of withdrawing all remaining troops in Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, bringing an end to America's longest war.

Biden on Monday also urged Americans to honor the sacrifice of soldiers by defending the fundamental freedoms of democracy, which he argued is “in peril here at home and around the world.”

"What we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen will determine whether or not democracy will long endure,” he said, adding that “Democracy thrives when the infrastructure of democracy is strong." 

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Also during his Memorial Day speech, Biden sought to highlight the importance of Americans' “right to vote freely and fairly and conveniently,” a day after Texas Democrats staged a walkout to block the passage of a sweeping overhaul package. 

“We were built on an idea, the idea of liberty and opportunity for all,” Biden explained, adding that while “we've never fully realized that aspiration of our founding,” each “generation has opened the door a little wider.” 

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