November 11th, 2009
05:57 PM ET
13 years ago

NH parents get condolences from Obama at Arlington


The president and first lady made a surprise visit on Veterans Day to Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where the war dead from Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - Skip and Rhonda Rollins were visiting the gravesite of their son Justin at Arlington National Cemetery Veterans Day when they received condolences from unexpected visitors - President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

After making remarks at the Arlington's annual National Veterans Day Observance, the president made a surprise visit to Section 60 of the cemetery, where the war dead from Afghanistan and Iraq are buried.

Obama spoke with families, visited gravesites, and shook the hands of visiting veterans. The visit came just before he headed back to the White House to preside over what could be one of his last meetings with top advisers before he decides whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The Rollins' son Justin, who would have turned 25 years old the day before Veterans Day, was killed in Iraq in 2007.

The couple told CNN they were "extremely surprised" to see President Obama take the time to speak with the families in Section 60. Skip Rollins said that although he generally holds "different political views" from the president, that supporting American soldiers, both living and dead, "should always be a nonpartisan issue."

The couple comes from New Hampshire every year to visit their son's gravesite for the combination of Veterans Day and his birthday, though this was the first time they had ever seen a president walking the grounds of the cemetery. While the trip is fraught with emotion, the couple commended Obama's effort to speak with the families. "It was extremely nice of him to take this time out to come down here and do this, " Skip Rollins said.

Rhonda Rollins added, "When you come here and it's not just my son that I mourn for when I see all the others stones, the ages of the soldiers, and you know they've given the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. And you know it's hard for me to leave, to leave my son."

Filed under: Michelle Obama • President Obama • Veterans
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Meka

    Best President, Ever!

    November 11, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  2. Lois

    What an awesome show of appreciation by the President and First Lady for those who gave their lives for our country. May God comfort those who morn the lost of their love ones and may God bless the President and the US of A!

    November 11, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  3. ~~ July ~~ ( Working HARD to make TX Blue )

    Mr. & Mrs. Rollins .... I am so sorry for the lost of your son.

    November 11, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  4. Jayden,FL

    Thank you to all who serve this great country of ours.. and for those who gave there life for this country I have the utmost respect for you and yours.. Thank you all.

    November 11, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. ran

    Thank you Mr President for caring.

    Also thanks to all veterans past,present and future.

    November 11, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  6. Peggi

    I just about cried when I read this. A commander in chief, who is in the process of deciding of what to do about Afghanistan, walking through the cementary of men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, just touched my heart. It tells me he is not taking this decision lightly, nor is he dithering as his critcs is claiming. More and more I respect this man. God bless you, Mr. President.

    November 11, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  7. Florence

    President Obama is doing everything in his power to convey to all Americans that he cares about the soldiers and their families and all he gets for this is criticism frrom his foes. I too commend the president to taking time out to visit the graves of the fallen especially, since he is about to make a decision on Afghanistan that will dramatically effect many families. God Bless Our Veterans.

    November 11, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  8. Please stopr censoring...thx S Callahan

    God Bless America! God protect and keep our soliders safe in your care. In you we Trust. Amen.

    November 11, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  9. Real TN Christian

    What style! What grace! Finally, a president we can respect and support.

    November 11, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  10. Columbusweb

    My President is definitely a class act.

    November 11, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    Thank you, Mr. President, for your concern. And condolences to the Rollings family and all the families who have lost loved ones to armed conflict.

    November 11, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  12. Scott

    I am a Marine Corps veteran. Even though I do not hold the same political views as the President, I commend him for seeking out a family who has given the life of their son for our country.

    November 11, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  13. Lisa

    Condolences to the Rollins family on the loss of their son, Justin.

    November 11, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  14. Eric

    I think President Obama is such a great man. It is really wonderful of him to make surprise visits like that and I think he really does care and has compassion for these families who have lost loved ones.

    November 11, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  15. Pat

    What a well written, touching article. Kudos, CNN!

    November 11, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. Brandon In NC

    Now this is the President I voted for!!

    November 11, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  17. Larry

    I think that just goes to show how much class our president has.
    Finally a human being in the white house who seeks to comfort.Wonderful.

    November 11, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  18. Patty

    President Obama may have not gone through the ranks of the military, but his actions speaks of a great Commander-in-Chief. What a tough decision he and the presidents before has to make. There's no doubt he takes this role very seriously.

    November 11, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  19. Norm

    This President is amazing. To me it says alot about him going to Arlington on Veterens Day. I know he is considering all the different scenerios, strategies, and options prior to his decision he will make on the Afghanistan situation. He will make the right decision needed for the time. Each and everyone of our soldiers are precious loved ones of their families and Obama realizes this and won't make a rush to judgement with the wrong plan that get us nowhere and waste our soldiers life and not accomplish anything for us or Afghanistan.

    November 11, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  20. Stacie

    God Bless our president and the first lady.

    November 11, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  21. Tyrone in New York City

    This isn't about the president. This is about the fallen soldiers and their families, God Bless them all on this day and throughout the year.

    November 11, 2009 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |