BALTIMORE — President Donald Trump honored America’s war dead Monday in back-to-back Memorial Day appearances colored by an epic struggle off the battlefield, against the coronavirus.
Eager to demonstrate national revival from the pandemic, Trump doubled up on his public schedule.
Trump first honored the nation’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. Presidents on Memorial Day typically lay a wreath and speak at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the coronavirus crisis made this year different.
Many attendees arrived wearing masks but removed them for the outdoor ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Trump gave no remarks as he saluted near a wreath.
Trump then traveled to Baltimore’s historic Fort McHenry, where he declared: “Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights. No obstacle, no challenge and no threat is a match for the sheer determination of the American people.”
He praised the tens of thousands of service members and national guard personnel “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.”
His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, chose Memorial Day to make his first public appearance in the two months since the pandemic closed down the nation. Biden emerged unannounced from his Delaware home to lay a wreath at a nearby park, with no crowd gathered to greet him. It was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen.
Biden’s words were muffled through a black cloth face mask. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made,” he said after. “Never, ever forget.”
Trump is intent on accelerating his own schedule as he urges the country to get to work. This month, Trump has toured factories in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan that make pandemic supplies. He plans to be in Florida on Wednesday to watch two NASA astronauts rocket into space, and he played golf at his private club in Virginia on Saturday and Sunday.
The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine commemorates the site where Francis Scott Key wrote a poem after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812. That poem became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The fort is closed to the public because of the pandemic.
“The brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms for generations did not stay home and the president will not either as he honors their sacrifice by visiting such a historic landmark in our nation’s history,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement.