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President Trump and first lady make surprise visit to Arlington Cemetery before Memorial Day

Trump will be in Japan on Memorial Day holiday

Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump made an unscheduled visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday in honor of Memorial Day.

What's the story?

Visiting the cemetery unannounced, Trump did not deliver remarks to the media. He arrived at 2:20 p.m. ET, and he and the first lady placed flags in front of the headstones in the cemetery's Section 34. They also visited the grave of Frank Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran who died in 2011, and could be seen slowly walking between the rows of markers.

Arlington National Cemetery was founded in 1864 as a burial place for Union troops during the Civil War, on land that had belonged to Robert E. Lee's wife. The land had also briefly been used by the U.S. government for a way station to assist former slaves fleeing southern states. Some 400,000 Americans are now buried in the cemetery.

The Trumps stayed in the cemetery for about 20 minutes.

The president was criticized last year for not visiting a U.S. military cemetery outside of Paris when he was in France on Veterans Day. He had been scheduled to visit that cemetery but cancelled the trip because of rain. Trump later told Fox News' Chris Wallace that he "should have" gone to the cemetery but that he was "extremely busy on calls for the country."

Trump visited the Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2017 and 2018, but this year he will be out of the country on a state visit to Japan. On Monday, he will visit the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base and visit with troops there.

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