National, Defense Leaders Honor Valor in 'Place Where Valor Sleeps'
By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 29, 2006 America's top military leaders -- the commander in chief, secretary of defense, and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff -- commemorated this Memorial Day by paying tribute to generations of Americans, past and present, who have "answered the call to serve and stepped forward to protect the nation they loved."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, accompanied by Pres. George W. Bush and the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, addresses the audience during Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery May 29. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace spoke to an appreciative crowd in a moving ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery here.
Bush said all of the some 296,000 men and women buried at Arlington understood their duty. "They saw a dark shadow on the horizon and went to meet it," he said. "They understood that tyranny must be met with resolve and that liberty is always the achievement of courage."
Gen. Pace acknowledged that American servicemen and women in combat "do know fear." However, he said, they overcome their fear because of the example set by previous generations of wartime heroes.
"It is the fear of not doing our nation's duty that overrides the physical fear," he said. "That somehow our actions will not live up to the legacy of those who've gone before. That somehow our performance in battle (will) leave the Marine or soldier on our left or our right in harm's way."
Pace said American servicemembers would never want to fail the warriors that went before them in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and all other U.S. military conflicts. "I can stand in front of you and proudly tell you that as long as any of us -- 2.4 million active, Guard and Reserve -- have the privilege to serve this nation, we will never let our nation down -- and certainly will not let down the legacy of those who've gone before," he said.
Indeed, it is this legacy of service and heroism that undoubtedly inspired the passengers of Flight 93 to stand up to their terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, Rumsfeld said.
Because of the passengers' bravery, the flight crashed into a remote field near Shanksville, Pa., instead of its intended target of either the White House or the Capitol building. "Those we honor today understood that freedom is not inherited, it's earned," Rumsfeld said. "And surely those who died on Flight 93 took inspiration from the spirit of the citizen soldiers buried here, those who knew battle and drew their last breath for a freer world."
The defense secretary observed that in every U.S. military conflict, critics argued "America was a fading nation (and) that the fighting was not worth the cost. ... Yet, every time in every era, citizen soldiers" proved the critics wrong, he said.
"Because they served and because they sacrificed, America would prove not to be a fading nation but as (Benjamin) Franklin said, an ever-rising sun." Rumsfeld said.
Earlier, Bush had participated at a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington. "The names of those buried there are known only to God," he said. "Yet their souls have entered into the spirit of America, and they will never be forgotten by our nation."
Bush praised veterans of all conflicts across the globe. "As we pray for their fallen friends," he said, "we also remember those who went to war and are still missing, and we are determined to account for them all."
He noted that 270 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan also are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He cited one such veteran, Army 1st Lt. Mark Dooley, as illustrative of America's current generation of wartime heroes. Dooley was killed in September in Ramadi, Iraq. Before leaving for Iraq, he wrote a farewell letter to his parents in case he was killed. Bush read from Dooley's letter: "Remember that my leaving was in the service of something that we loved and be proud. The best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made."
The president also paid tribute to Army Lt. Col. Joseph Fenty Jr., who died with nine other soldiers earlier this month in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
"Some day," Bush said about Fenty's newborn daughter, "she will learn about her dad from the men with whom he served. And one of them said this about her father: 'We all wanted to be more like Joe Fenty. We were all in awe of him.'
"Well," Bush added. "I am in awe of the men and women who sacrifice for the freedom of the United States of America.
"In this place where valor sleeps," the president continued, "we are reminded why America has always gone to war reluctantly: because we know the cost of war. We have seen those costs in the war on terror we fight today."
However, he observed, "our nation is free because of brave Americans like these who volunteered to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. Our nation mourns the loss of our men and women in uniform. We will honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, by defeating the terrorists, by advancing the cause of liberty, and by laying the foundation of peace for a generation of young Americans."