President Trump on Saturday ventured out into a cold steady rain to make a surprise visit to Arlington National Cemetery on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia, where thousands of fallen soldiers lie buried under endless rows of white headstones.
Trump walked solemnly through the cemetery to pay his respects and praised volunteers from a group called “Wreaths Across America” as they placed Christmas wreaths.
“They do a great job, a really great job,” Trump said. “Thank you.”
Trump stepped out of a black SUV at 2:20 p.m. wearing a dark suit, overcoat and red and white striped tie. He held a black umbrella in steady rain and he tromped over muddy ground in brown waterproof boots.
The president was greeted by two military men in camouflage fatigues and was guided by a woman in green raincoat and gray hat. They walked along a row of tombstones with wreaths, chatting. Trump then talked about expanding Arlington cemetery property.
The event is held every December in an effort to “remember, honor, and teach,” the group says. More than 1,400 cemeteries in all 50 states hold the event called Wreaths Across America Day. Last year, more than 75,000 volunteers placed wreaths at 245,000 Arlington gravesites, Fox News reported.
“This year, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 million wreaths to 1,640 locations that will hold ceremonies across the U.S., according to the Pentagon,” Fox said. This year is also the first time the group will lay wreaths at Normandy in France to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.
Trump was criticized in the U.S. and European media last month when he did not attend a memorial service for World War I soldiers in Paris, France. The site was 50 miles away and bad weather meant the presidential helicopters were grounded.
“As you know, I just left the day before the American Cemetery, and I probably think — and that was one where it was raining as hard as you can imagine, and I made a speech at the American Cemetery the day before, and I probably — you know, in retrospect I should have,” Trump said at the time. “I did last year, and I will virtually every year.”