WASHINGTON, D.C. As the nation mourns fallen soldiers, more than 282,000 flags adorn the graves of those buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. The final resting place of many of the nation’s service members, soldiers have been placing the flags at Arlington National Cemetery in a ritual that started in 1948.President Donald Trump will speak in a ceremony Monday afternoon at Arlington and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In a speech Saturday to U.S. soldiers stationed at Sigonella Air Force Base in Italy, Trump called the mission of a U.S. soldier part of the ongoing battle between “good and evil.” The speech concluded his nine-day tour of the Middle East and Europe.”I can think of no better way to conclude our first foreign trip than to spend time with you… We will always support you. And we will never, ever forget you,” Trump told the service members and their families. “You’ve poured out your heart and soul and often your blood for this nation. We will pour out our gratitude to you especially on Memorial Day, when we pause to thank God for the heroes who have laid down their lives for our freedom.”Ahead of the ceremony at Arlington, the rumble of motorcycle engines filled a rainy morning in Washington on Sunday as thousands of bikers paraded around the National Mall for the 30th annual Rolling Thunder rally to raise awareness of U.S. military personnel who went missing in action.Participants, many of them U.S. war veterans astride the loud, muscular Harley-Davidson machines typical of such events, rode into Washington led by a police escort over the MemorialBridge, where cheering spectators waved Americans flags in support.”The greatest thing a person can ever do for a veteran is say: ‘Thank you,’ and this is just one giant thank you,” said Jason White, who fought in the 1990-1991 Gulf War.The Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” began in 1987 as a protest demanding a full accounting for American troops listed as missing in action, some who were believed at the time to still be held as prisoners following the Vietnam War.The annual Memorial Day event has evolved to encompass efforts to honor and raise awareness about the fate of all U.S. service members who were lost or otherwise “abandoned” following any of America’s military conflicts.According to U.S. Defense Department figures, nearly 83,000 American military personnel remain unaccounted for, the overwhelming majority, 73,000-plus, from World War Two. The tally also includes more than 7,700 from the Korean War and over 1,600 from the Vietnam War.There are 58,286 fallen soldiers memorialized on the monument wall honoring the nation’s fallen soldiers from the Vietnam War. Of those, there are 1,820 dead from N.C. or buried in the state.
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