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Biden and Trump’s contrasting approaches to military affairs on display this Memorial Day weekend

The Biden campaign is ramping up efforts to woo veteran voters, who typically back Republicans
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump
Posted at 4:44 PM, May 25, 2024

While Memorial Day weekend traditionally offers Americans a break from the intense partisanship of modern politics, both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump were expected to use the occasion to emphasize their contrasting appeals to veteran voters, with campaign season kicking into high gear heading into the summer months.

Biden planned to participate in the annual Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Monday. Later in the week, he’ll likely mark the ninth anniversary of his son Beau Biden’s death with family, as he has in years past. The late Biden served as an officer in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps during the Iraq war, and died in of brain cancer in 2015.

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Trump, meanwhile, is expected to attend the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race on Sunday, according to local officials and media reports. The campaign has not yet shared his schedule for the Memorial Day holiday and did not respond to multiple inquiries about the former president's plans.

Typically, presidents use the Memorial Day occasion to honor military families and highlight their policies impacting them.

In recent weeks, Biden has taken a series of steps to highlight his administration’s focus on veterans and the military. In remarks at the West Point commencement ceremony Saturday, the president spoke of cadets’ commitment to apolitical patriotism and democracy – a not-so-subtle dig at Trump, who received criticism for his 2020 West Point address that came days after he threatened to order active-duty troops to quell protests against racial injustice.

“On your very first day at West Point, you raised your right hands and took an oath not to a political party, not to a president, but to the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” President Biden said Saturday.

That oath, President Biden continued, "is as important to your nation now as it ever has been.”

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Earlier this week, the president traveled to Nashua, New Hampshire, to commemorate the Department of Veterans' Affairs’ approval of the 1 millionth claim under the PACT Act. The bipartisan law Presdient Biden championed helps veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic chemicals more easily access care.

During his remarks in New Hampshire, Biden spoke about his personal connection to that issue, linking his son’s cancer diagnosis to his time serving overseas.

“My son Beau was one of those veterans,” President Biden told attendees. “So this is personal to me and my family, and to his family and his children.”

In early June, Biden is expected to travel to Normandy, France, to participate in ceremonies honoring the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Reuters reported. There, the president is expected speak about continued threats to democracy.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly sought to portray President Biden as a poor commander in chief, suggesting his “weakness and surrender” was responsible for a deadly drone attack that killed three U.S. service members in Jordan earlier this year, as he criticizes his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

Though Biden is unlikely to wade into politics on Monday given the gravity of the ceremonies, his expected travel to France will highlight Trump’s snub of a planned World War I cemetery visit in 2018 — the same trip where the former president reportedly referred to fallen veterans as “losers” and “suckers.” Trump maintains he never said those words, despite an on-the-record confirmation from his former Chief of Staff.

Veteran voters typically lean Republican, with 60% backing Trump in 2016, according to exit polls. But, President Biden has been steadily making gains.

In 2020, 44% of voters who said they were serving in the military supported Joe Biden and 54 backed Donald Trump.