President Remembers the 'Victory They Won' on V-E Day
By Gene Harper
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2005 President Bush "commemorated a great victory for liberty," today at the American cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands, in observance of the 60th anniversary of V-E - Victory in Europe - Day.
"The thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price we pay for that victory," the president said in his tribute to fallen World War II servicemembers.
He also recognized World War II American veterans at the ceremony. "We welcome you and we honor you," Bush said. "And they're here with their Dutch comrades. They share a love of liberty. In the war that came to an end 60 years ago this day, all those who fought for freedom made sacrifice, and many gave their lives."
He remembered "the young Americans who did not live to comb gray hair." He said those buried at the cemetery are "more than a headstone and serial number; each person here has a name that is precious to some family." Some 8,300 are buried at cemetery, the third-largest in Europe.
"And in faded black and white photographs," Bush continued, "each one here looks back at us in the full glow of youth: the fresh-faced American in uniform, the newly minted officer with a smiling sweetheart on his or her arm, or the young dad traveling, holding a baby son or daughter on his knee. Every one of these Americans added his own unique contribution to the story of freedom."
Bush said the anniversary was also the "cause for which these soldiers fought and triumphed." He noted that at World War II's outset there were "those who believed that democracy was too soft to survive, especially against a Nazi Germany that boasted the most professional, well-equipped and highly trained military forces in the world."
A coalition of armies from "democratic allies and freedom fighters" from "occupied lands and resistance leaders" brought down that military, he noted. "They fought side by side with American GIs, who, only months before, had been farmers and bank clerks and factory hands," the president said. "And the world's tyrants learned a lesson: There is no power like the power of freedom, and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom."
He said the free Euopean continent where many World War II veterans are buried was "built on their sacrifice."
"On this day, we celebrate the victory they won, and we recommit ourselves to the great truth that they defended, that freedom is the birthright of all mankind," Bush said. "Because of their sacrifice and the help of brave allies, that truth prevailed at the close of the 20th century.
"As the 21st century unfolds before us, Americans and Europeans are continuing to work together and are bringing freedom and hope to places where it has long been denied: in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon, and across the broader Middle East. Freedom is a permanent hope of mankind," the president concluded, "and when that hope is made real for all people, it will be because of the sacrifices of a new generation of men and women as selfless and dedicated to liberty as those we honor today."
The president traveled to the Netherlands after meeting with Baltic nation leaders in Latvia May 7. The next stops were in Russia and Georgia.