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President Obama lays wreath, speaks at Arlington National Cemetery

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President Obama participates in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 27, 2013, in Arlington, Va. (AP)

President Obama marked Memorial Day by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. 

In a speech following the wreath laying ceremony Monday, Obama said he fears the men and women of the military are fading from the public consciousness.  

"The truth cannot be ignored. Today, most Americans are not directly touched by war," Obama said at the hallowed burial ground, where rows of headstones were topped by small flags and cannon fire could be heard in the distance.

The cemetery is the final resting place for many American war heroes.

The president rode by motorcade from the White House to the cemetery. The U.S. Marines stood at attention along the road that carried the president to tomb site. The headstones at the national cemetery were adorned with mini-American flags.

Appearing before a hushed crowd at the venerable cemetery, Obama strode with uniformed military officers to the site of the Tomb and set the wreath in place after the playing of the National Anthem.

"Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about for the first time in nine years Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq," he told the crowd. "Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home.  Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that's progress for which we are profoundly grateful.  And this time
next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan."

During his speech, the president also gave a special salute to the Americans who fought in the Korean War and noted its 60th anniversary. 

Earlier Monday, the president and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a breakfast at the White House with "Gold Star" families of service members who have been killed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.