The somber speech was a striking departure from a politically-charged tweet the president had sent out earlier surmising “those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud” with his presidency, appearing to politicize what is typically observed as a solemn holiday.
The president’s campaign also used the occasion to blast an email out to supporters advertising a sale on flags, hats, koozies and other merchandise.
“Within the next 14 hours, use the the coupon code “REMEMBER” to save 25% on ANY item in the Official Trump Store,” the email said.
During his remarks, Trump evoked stories of heroic fallen soldiers and paid tribute to Gold Star families in attendance who had lost their loved ones in past wars.
“We cannot imagine the depth of emotion that this day brings each year, the grief renewed, the memories relieved, those last beautiful moments together cherished, and always remembered,” Trump said.
(MORE: 11/8/88: George H.W. Bush’s Presidential Victory Speech)
(MORE: Trump honors fallen service members and Gold Star families in Memorial Day speech)
Trump also highlighted U.S. Navy veteran Ray Chavez, who at 106 years old, is the oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had privately met with Chavez in the Oval Office last week.
“Ray, you are truly an inspiration to all who are here today and to all of our country,” Trump said.
Approximately 24 U.S. service members have been killed in combat-related incidents overseas since Trump took office. This doesn’t account for the high number of non-combat related incidents, such as the two U.S. Navy destroyers that collided with commercial ships last summer, killing 17 sailors.
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