Happy Memorial Day! US honors veterans over Memorial Day weekend

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The U.S. Marine Corps’ chaplain, speaking to a congregation that has tied gold ribbons on the church’s fence in honor of fallen soldiers since the Iraq War began, lauded the sacrifice of veterans around the world as President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan for Memorial Day.

“What they have done has allowed us to be here,” Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben told the roughly 200 worshippers Sunday at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, including active duty servicemen and women in town for the annual Fleet Week celebration.

Memorial Day, she said, was a time to remind ourselves of the meaning of sacrifice and to put personal struggles and difficulties in perspective.

Across the nation, citizens were marking Memorial Day with somber ceremonies, flag planting at cemeteries, parades and even barbecues — an American pastime that Petty Officer 1st Class Brian McNeal said should be enjoyed this weekend.

“I’m in the service so that they can enjoy that,” said McNeal, 39, who is stationed in Suffolk, Virginia, and is in town for Fleet Week. “They made the sacrifice so everyday citizens don’t have to worry about the evils of the world.”

Thousands of memorial ribbons are tied on the storied church’s fence. There are gold ribbons for service members killed in Afghanistan, green ribbons representing prayers for peace and blue ribbons for the people of Afghanistan.

Obama arrived at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to speak with troops and visit soldiers being treated at a base hospital. At least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.