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Former presidents join Joe Biden for wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington cemetery

Three of the four living former presidents joined the newly sworn-in Joe Biden for the traditional laying of the wreath.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.Evan Vucci / AP
/ Source: TODAY

Three of the living former presidents joined President Joe Biden for the traditional laying of a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden all visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the cemetery's most well-known memorial, after Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. The last time the former presidents were all seen together was at Rep. John Lewis' funeral in July, according to NBC News' Chuck Todd.

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama attended the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.Tom Brenner / Reuters

The former presidents' wives — Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — also traveled to Arlington, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris approach the wreath laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Biden, Harris and Major General Omar J. Jones salute at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.Joshua Roberts / Reuters

The ceremony began with a band performance of the national anthem and taps, a bugle call often played at military funerals, as Biden and Harris presented the wreath.

Biden and Harris visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after they were sworn in. Evan Vucci / AP

The tomb, a white sarcophagus, overlooks the nation's capital as a tribute to unidentified individuals who lost their lives fighting in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, according to

Arlington National Cemetery is known as the country's largest military cemetery, with graves of 400,000 veterans and their immediate families. One of its other popular tourist sites is the tomb of former President John F. Kennedy, who was laid to rest there in 1963 and was the country's only Catholic president before Joe Biden.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as one of several events for their 2017 inauguration, as did Obama and Biden in 2013.

Obama also offered well-wishes to his former vice president ahead of Biden's swearing-in.

"Congratulations to my friend, President @JoeBiden! This is your time," he wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of the presidential duo with their arms around each other.

Former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton arrive for the inauguration.OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP - Getty Images
Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton speak with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the inauguration.Alex Wong / Getty Images

The only living president who wasn't present for the ceremony was Jimmy Carter, who, at 96, is also the oldest of the four former presidents. It's the first time that he and wife Rosalynn Carter did not attend the inauguration since his own in 1977.

A spokeswoman at The Carter Center in Atlanta told NBC News earlier this month that the Carters have sent Biden and Harris their “best wishes” and “look forward to a successful administration.”