Nation Pays Tribute to Those Who Died to Defend Freedom
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May. 26, 2003 "God is crying too," said 4-year-old Robert as he and his family participated in the Memorial Day ceremonies here today.
Robert, whose family did not want to use his last name, was one of thousands who sat through the rain to honor the men and women who have died in defense of the United States. He and those gathered listened as President Bush spoke for the nation in tribute to the fallen.
"We come to this Memorial Day with deep awareness of recent loss and recent courage," Bush said during his speech.
The president spoke of Americans who fought for freedom throughout U.S. history. "Today we honor the men and women who wore the nation's uniform and were last seen on duty," Bush said, "from the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan to the conflicts of Korea and Vietnam, to the trials of world wars and the struggles that made us a nation.
"Today we recall that liberty is always the achievement of courage. And today, we remember all who have died, all who are still missing and all who mourn."
He said that in every generation, the United States has found people who were equal to the needs of the times. The farms, small towns and city streets of this land have always produced free citizens who assumed the discipline and duty of military life," he said. "And time after time, they have proved that the moral force of democracy is mightier than the will and cunning of any tyrant."
Bush said that American service members have not fought for glory, but to fulfill a duty. "They did not yearn to be heroes. They yearned to see Mom and Dad again and to hold their sweethearts and to watch their sons and daughters grow," he said. "They wanted the daily miracle of freedom in America, yet they gave all that up and gave life itself for the sake of others.
"Their sacrifice was great, but not in vain," he continued. "All Americans and every free nation on earth can trace their liberty to the white markers of places like Arlington National Cemetery. And may God keep us ever grateful."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld introduced the president. He said that the graves that surround the Memorial Amphitheater contain "the heroes of our heritage."
He said the cemetery contains their monuments, but it also contains their dreams. He referred to "their dreams for America that it would remain a bastion of freedom and a beacon of hope; dreams for the world that men would learn to live in harmony and in peace; and their dreams for themselves, their families and their futures -- dreams they did not live to see come true."
Both Bush and Rumsfeld stressed the obligations that go along with service members' sacrifices. "Today we face new threats," Rumsfeld said. "They will be met with the same courage, the same commitment, and like the foes of times past, they too will be defeated.
"This is our pledge to the men and women who have gone before," the secretary declared. "It is our responsibility to our children and their children and all who follow."