For most Americans, the last Monday in May marks the conclusion of a long weekend and the unofficial start of summer. For many, Memorial Day is more significant — it commemorates the men and women who lost their lives in battle. In the Southern Appalachian region, families follow the rituals of Decoration Day, the precursor to Memorial Day. Others visit memorials across the nation to lay flowers and pay their respects.
U.S. military leaders are debating how many troops will stay in Iraq when the war winds down by year's end. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says some troops will stay for years past the deadline, but Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warns that if U.S. troops remain past 2011, his militias will return to violence.
Defense secretary Robert Gates is expected to step down next month. In what may have been his final policy speech last week, he leveled a warning to Congress and the White House — deep cuts in the Pentagon's budget will mean both a smaller military, and a diminished U.S. role around the world.
President Obama honored America's fallen service members on Memorial Day and laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. He then spoke to the crowds gathered there and told the story of one of America's guardians, Travis Manian, and his friend and fellow Naval Academy graduate, Brendan Looney.
As part of NPR's ongoing series, 'The Impact of War,' guest host Allison Keyes explores one of the tragic consequences of combat - burn wounds. Such wounds can subject victims to a painful and unpredictable recovery. Army Lt. Col. Maria Serio Melvin shares her experiences at the military's largest burn center, the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX, where she treated service members injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.