Loss, Patriotism Feelings Rise at Memorial Day Events
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 27, 2002 When Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Tracy Thomas started singing "America the Beautiful," a few people in the Memorial Amphitheater here began waving small American flags. By the time the chief had finished everyone was standing and waving the Stars and Stripes.
A sense of loss and patriotism were palpable feelings in the crowd, as America marked its first Memorial Day at war in a generation. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz presided at a presidential wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and then delivered the Memorial Day address.
He stood in for President George Bush, who was taking part in a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. That beach and area of France was the site of the fierce, prolonged World War II Allied assault to wrestle German control from France starting D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Bush, in Europe for meetings and a NATO summit, said during the ceremony "our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today, and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live."
Bush said the day would come when no American will be alive who knew those who died at Normandy. "When no visitor to this cemetery can stand before a grave remembering a face and a voice," he said, "the day will never come when America forgets them. And our nation and the world will always remember what they did here, and what they gave here for the future of humanity."
Later that day at the Arlington commemoration, Wolfowitz said Americans should pay respect to those who died by remembering what it means to be an American. He paraphrased George Washington, who said that the toil and blood that purchased America would have meaning only if the character of the new nation matched the sacrifice of those who fought for independence, and that the independence of the United States had to be secured on the pillars of justice and freedom.
Wolfowitz also spoke of President Abraham Lincoln and "the new birth of freedom" that followed the Civil War. America, he said, is where the right of the people to govern themselves was born. "(America is) where religion is a matter of personal conscience," he said, "where dreams are large and where, through education and determination, every person can make those dreams real and in so doing make a better world."
But the deputy secretary warned about those in the world who view the idea of America as a threat. "As we learned so painfully last September, there are those whose dreams are small, whose world is circumscribed by bigotry and persecution, resentment and oppression, hatred and death," Wolfowitz said. The terrorists who struck the Pentagon did so because they "sensed that the opposite of all they were and stood for resided there."
Those killed at the Pentagon -- a mere 500 meters away from the Memorial Amphitheater -- "were free men and women proud of their freedom, proud of their country and proud of their country's cause, the cause of human freedom. They died because they were Americans," Wolfowitz said.
And Americans are "on fire" to do the right thing. "The Americans who fight for freedom in Afghanistan are not just fighting for Americans, they are fighting, and they are dying, so a people of a tortured nation that has lost a million lives to war in the last decade can go back to their homes and their schools and have a chance for what we have in America," Wolfowitz said. "Today, with sadness we mourn the 38 souls we have lost in this campaign. But with joy we recall that through their sacrifice freedom may once again have a new birth."
Wolfowitz said America faces another test. "Liberty and our way of life is once again at peril," he said. "We remind ourselves once more who we are and what we stand for and what we are fighting for. And we hear again the words spoken by President Bush (after the Sept. 11 attacks): '... We will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.' "