Bush Honors Service Members' Sacrifices On Memorial Day
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2004 President Bush today paid homage to U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.
On Memorial Day, "America acknowledges a debt" to its fallen service members "that is beyond our power to repay," Bush declared during his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater.
Earlier, Bush had placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Army Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, commanding general of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, and other luminaries accompanied the president at the Memorial Day ceremonies.
"We come each year, at this time to this place, to remember the heroes of our heritage -- those from every war and each generation who gave their lives in service to our country," Rumsfeld said before introducing the president to the amphitheater audience.
Taking the lectern, Bush observed that the World War II Memorial that was dedicated May 29 "will stand forever as a tribute to the generation that fought that war and the more than 400,000 Americans who fell." America, Bush vowed to the World War II veterans in attendance, "will always honor the achievements and character of your brave generation."
The United States has reluctantly engaged in warfare throughout its history, Bush pointed out, "because we have known the costs of war." Today's global war on terrorism "has brought great costs of its own," Bush noted. U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, are serving with decency and spirit.
"Because of their fierce courage, America is safer," Bush said. Two terror regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq "are gone forever," he added, while more than 50 million people have been freed from tyranny.
U.S. service members who've fought terrorism "can be proud of all they have achieved," Bush said.
Arlington's markers bear the names of more than 280,000 men and women, Bush said, and each of the fallen, "was once, or still is, the most important person in someone's life." Each time warfare takes a life, the president added, the world is changed forever for those left behind who may carry "feelings of sadness over an unfinished life."
The completeness of a life, Bush said, isn't just a matter of its length, but "is measured in the deeds and commitments that give a life its purpose."
Fallen U.S. service members, Bush said, have "defended our nation, liberated the oppressed" and "served the cause of peace."
People who've experienced a wartime loss either recently or long ago should know that "the person they love and miss is honored and remembered by the United States of America," Bush concluded.