Bush Honors Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day at Arlington
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 28, 2007 Evoking the memories of citizens who died defending America throughout history and urging a new generation to safeguard freedoms for which previous generations made sacrifices, President Bush commemorated Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery here today.
“Today we honor the warriors who fought our nation's enemies, defended the cause of liberty, and gave their lives in the cause of freedom,” Bush said to a crowd of more than 5,000 people after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. “We offer our love and our heartfelt compassion to the families who mourn them. We pray that our country may always prove worthy of the sacrifices they made.”
Bush was joined by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, members of Congress and military leaders in paying tribute to the nation’s fallen. This year was the 139th observance of Memorial Day at Arlington. Military veterans, servicemembers, families and other citizens gathered for the ceremony, which was precluded by a performance from the U.S. Marine Corps Band.
In welcoming the crowd to the ceremony, Pace called today a time to reflect on the “incredible heroes” who have served the nation, and also on the families they left behind. He also pledged that those in uniform today will stay dedicated to defending freedom.
“We will not let down those who have gone before us,” he said.
President Bush takes part in the Memorial Day commemoration wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, May 28, 2007. White House photo by Chris Greenberg
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Bush noted that Arlington is home to the remains of many well-known American heroes, as well as hundreds of thousands who served in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and other places. Now, the cemetery is receiving a new generation of heroes in the servicemembers who have died in the war on terror.
“Like those who came before them, they did not want war -- but they answered the call when it came,” Bush said of the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They believed in something larger than themselves. They fought for our country, and our country unites to mourn them as one.”
These troops gave their lives at a time when America is under attack and underestimated, Bush said. However, the sacrifices they made have ensured that America is still a bastion of freedom, and is still producing citizens who are willing to answer the call to duty.
“The greatest memorial to our fallen troops cannot be found in the words we say or the places we gather. The more lasting tribute is all around us -- a country where citizens have the right to worship as they want, to march for what they believe, and to say what they think,” Bush said. “These freedoms came at great costs -- and they will survive only as long as there are those willing to step forward to defend them against determined enemies.“
The war on terrorism will end one day, as all wars do, Bush acknowledged. The duty of this generation is to ensure that the war’s outcome justifies the sacrifices of those who have fought and died, he said.
“From their deaths must come a world where the cruel dreams of tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled -- where our nation is more secure from attack, and where the gift of liberty is secured for millions who have never known it,” he said.
It is America’s destiny to pursue this future of freedom and liberty, Bush said, and though the journey may be rough, it is the bravery of the men and women in uniform that keeps the country going.
“On this day of memory, we mourn brave citizens who laid their lives down for our freedom,” he said. “They lived and died as Americans. May we always honor them. May we always embrace them. And may we always be faithful to who they were and what they fought for.”