Washington, Jul 5 : US President Donald Trump has hailed the "brave men and women" of the US military during a speech at a controversial Independence Day event.
"We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag," he told a crowd at a rain-soaked Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Thursday. The "Salute to America" event featured military flyovers and fireworks, said a BBC News report. Opponents accused Mr Trump of wasting money and politicising the holiday ahead of his re-election campaign.
The Pentagon has not revealed the cost of the extravaganza, which many believe was inspired by Mr Trump's visit to a Bastille Day parade hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
Some reports say the National Park Service diverted nearly $2.5m (£2m) to cover the cost.
Addressing a crowd that had braved torrential rain and high temperatures, Mr Trump paid homage to the military before introducing separate flyovers for each branch. He spoke about America's battle for independence and praised the "extraordinary heritage" of the country. "Together we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told, the story of America," Mr Trump said at the event. Chants of "USA, USA" broke out sporadically as he spoke.
"It is the chronicle of brave citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future," he continued. "As long as we never stop fighting for a better future... there will be nothing that America cannot do." The stage at the Lincoln Memorial was draped in flags and there were military vehicles on display nearby. Two 70-tonne Abrams tanks had to stay on a side road as they were too heavy for the memorial's surrounding areas.
The event was open to the public free of charge, apart from a ticketed area for VIPs in front of the memorial. The musical playlist included the Star Wars theme, Hail to the Chief and God bless the USA. It went ahead largely without incident, although there were minor scuffles outside the White House earlier on Thursday after a flag-burning protest.
Following Mr Trump's speech, many people headed to a scheduled concert on the lawn of the Capitol Building where a fireworks display went ahead despite the rainy conditions.(UNi)