The president’s supporters flocked to the event despite the oppressive heat and at-times heavy rain, delivering for Mr. Trump the kind of tableau he wanted for the cameras, filling almost all of the open spaces around the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.
But many in the crowd seemed puzzled by the speech, in which Mr. Trump made no mention of congressional Democrats or Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, or any of his presidential rivals — his usual targets at his rallies. In that way, the White House made good on its promise, having said Mr. Trump would avoid giving an overtly political speech.
Instead, the president — who never served in the armed forces and was deferred in the draft during the Vietnam War because of bone spurs in his heels — took a sometimes rambling trip through America’s military history, recounting with reverence the early beginnings of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
Many military families who received invitations to a V.I.P. section close to the president’s stage appeared to all but ignore the usual understanding that members of the armed forces should not engage in partisan political activity. Many wore Trump’s MAGA hats and openly campaigned for Trump’s re-election, chanting, “Four more years.”
Before Mr. Trump’s arrival, supporters of the president huddled in the V.I.P. section under trees to escape a long downpour while the Marine Corps Band played a medley of patriotic songs, including “God Bless America.” Brief cheers of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” came from the military crowd pressed along the fence line.
Daniel P. Cortez, 68, of Stafford, Va., who was wounded in Vietnam as a Marine infantryman, sat in the V.I.P. section waiting for the president. Mr. Cortez, who works at a group that helps veterans deal with judicial issues, said he received an invitation from the White House on Monday.