President Barack Obama laid a wreath at a memorial at Flanders Field in Belgium on Wednesday to honor American troops who died during World War I.
The field is the burial site for hundreds of American soldiers who perished while fighting to liberate Belgium. Those men were part of a U.S. contingent of as many as 2 million soldiers who became symbolic in the struggle, said Stars & Stripes.com
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"They were essential in turning the tide," military historian Professor Dr. Luc De Vos of Leuven University told Stars & Stripes. "Young enthusiastic troops, they attacked and they were everywhere on the front."
Obama's wreath-laying ceremony comes before the majority of the centennial remembrances for the conflict that began in August 1914. "The Great War" resulted in about 14 million deaths.
Obama told reporters that his visit reminds Americans not to take progress for granted, and the lessons learned during that conflict are still relevant.
"Long after those guns fell silent, this bond has endured," Obama said, according to The Associated Press. "Belgians and Americans
have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies in World War II and through a long Cold War, then from Afghanistan to Libya. And today, Belgium is one of our closest partners in the world — a strong and capable ally. And thanks to the extraordinary alliance between our two nations, we know a level of peace and prosperity that those who fought here could scarcely have imagined."
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