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Clinton Says America Has Built on Service Members' Sacrifices

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 30, 2000 – President Clinton said the United States has never fought for empire, territory or dominance, "but many, many Americans gave their lives for freedom."

Clinton spoke after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns here. During his speech, he announced the United States and North Korea will resume talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, aimed at returning the remains of Americans listed as missing in action during the Korean War.

He said if those who died for the country could talk they might ask, "America, have you made our sacrifice matter?" He said Americans could answer that question with pride.

"Today, we are fortunate to be the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth, with a military respected around the world," Clinton said. "We could say, yes, America has made your sacrifice matter: America is at peace, and the risk of war that would scar the lives of a whole generation has been vastly reduced."

He said U.S. service members fought for freedom around the world because they knew it would preserve freedom at home. "Today, freedom advances around the world, and for the first time in human history, more than half the world's people choose their own leaders," he said. This is further proof to the dead that their sacrifices matter, he said.

The president pointed to Europe as an example of how the world has made their sacrifices matter. "You gave your lives in places like Flanders fields and Normandy," he said. "But today, Europe is more united, more free, more peaceful than anytime in history."

Clinton said their sacrifices made it possible for three new allies -- Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland -- to join NATO. He said their sacrifices made it possible for him to go to Russia and address a freely elected parliament. But, he said, more must be done.

"We will pursue the two remaining challenges in fulfilling the age-old vision of a Europe peaceful, democratic and undivided -- bringing southeastern Europe and the former states of the Soviet Union into the community of democracies," he said.

In introducing the president, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said the sacrifices of earlier service members place a responsibility on the present generation.

"What each of the men and women whom we honor today deserve most is to have each one of us as Americans carry forth and defend the ideal in which they all believed," Cohen said. "Freedom is their eloquent legacy, but it is also our perpetual responsibility. It's the right that we receive a birth, it's the gift that we tender to destiny."

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Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen at the National Memorial Day Observance, Arlington National Cemetery, May 29, 2000

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Maj. Gen. Robert R. Ivany, Military District of Washington commander, speaks during Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen (left) and President Clinton also spoke at the May 29 service. Photo by Jim Garamone.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThousands of veterans and their families packed the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. for Memorial Day activities. Secretary William S. Cohen and President Clinton were among the speakers at May 29 services there. Photo by Jim Garamone.  
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