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President Bush Thanks America's 'Hidden Heroes'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2004 – Veterans Day is about remembering the men and women who have taken up arms to defend our country, President Bush said in his address to those gathered at Arlington National Cemetery today.

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President Bush participates in a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Veterans Day. The ceremony took place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 11. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

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"Our whole nation honors every patriot who placed duty and country before their own lives," Bush said. "The gave us every day that we live in freedom."

After a brief introduction by Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi, Bush recognized and thanked America's veterans.

"We honor every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman who gave some of the best years of their lives to the service of the United States and stood ready to give life itself on our behalf," he said. "Twenty-five million military veterans walk among us, and on this day, our nation thanks them all."

In praising the "hidden heroes of a peaceful nation," the president noted that a small number of "doughboys" from World War I still survive, all more than 100 years old, who fought the Kaiser's army in the Great War that ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

To those who are fighting in foreign theaters today, the president extended the thanks of a grateful nation. Bush praised them for their accomplishments in ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban regime and Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

"All who have served in this cause are liberators in the best tradition of America. Their actions have made our nation safer in a world full of new dangers," he said. "Their actions have also upheld the ideals of America's founding, which defines us still.

"Our nation values freedom, not just for ourselves but for all." The president continued. "And because Americans are willing to serve and sacrifice for this cause, our nation remains the greatest force for good among all the nations on the Earth."

Bush acknowledged that some of tomorrow's veterans were in the midst of battle as the day's ceremonies were being held. He assured the audience that the servicemembers have a clear mission that they are performing skillfully and honorably. They also have the best training, equipment and able commanders, he said.

Flanked by veterans and guests of honor, the president said the servicemembers fighting the global war on terrorism have another distinct advantage over the enemy.

"They have the example of American veterans who came before," he said. "From the very day George Washington took command, the uniform of the United States has always stood for courage and decency. And all who have worn that uniform have won the thanks of the American people."

Bush also made a promise to the audience filled with veterans and their families. He vowed that the United States would not rest until the fullest possible accounting is made of those servicemembers last seen on duty. That promise was met with thunderous applause.

America and its security depend on active leadership, Bush said, and that leadership depends on the commitment and character of the country's military service. These, he said, are qualities that every generation has stepped forward to provide.

"What veterans have given our country is beyond our power to fully repay. Yet today, we recognize our debt to their honor," the president said. "And on this national holiday, our hearts are filled with respect and gratitude for the veterans of the United States of America."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfter placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day, President Bush pauses before observing a moment of silence. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePresident Bush observes a moment of silence Nov. 11, after he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day. In remarks after the wreath-laying ceremony, the president praised those who have worn the nation's uniform. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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