Bush Remembers Sacrifices in Defense of Liberty
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 29, 2001 President Bush remembered service members who died in defense of America during a Memorial Day ceremony here May 28.
President Bush places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., during a Memorial Day service, May 28, 2001. Photo by Jim Garamone.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Bush, accompanied by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Memorial Day is a time when America tries to come to terms with the scope of the loss of those who died for America and the meaning of their sacrifice. "It alwaysseems more than words can convey," Bush said. "All we can do is remember, and always appreciate the price that was paid for our own lives and for our freedom."
Memorial Day, he said, gives formal expression to a personal experience. "Their losses can be marked, but not measured," he said. "We can never measure the full value of what was gained by their sacrifices. We live it every day in the comforts of peace and the gifts of freedom. These have been purchased for us (by them)."
Bush also pledged to continue America's effort to account for missing service members from Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War and World War II. The crowd at the Memorial Amphitheater was made up of veterans, current service members and some tourists. Bush received a warm welcome from the crowd as did first lady Laura Bush, who arrived before the president and sat off to the side of the speaking platform.
In his remarks, Rumsfeld reiterated the debt America owes to those who died in defense of freedom. He said the rows of tombstones at Arlington "powerfully remind us of the suffering and the sacrifices made to ensure our country's freedom. Here rest America's sons and daughters. They gave everything any human being could ever be asked to give so that our sons and daughters can live in liberty.
He said their sacrifices remind Americans that freedom is not free. "It is a gift selflessly purchased by others at great cost."
He said America must guard against the idea that freedom and liberty are so strong that the era of war might be past. "To some Americans, war seems unthinkable today, a relic of a savage past that has no place in a peaceful future," Rumsfeld said.
He said that idea is not new. Britain felt much the same way following World War I. But war did follow.
"Now we are again at the start of a new century and once again it might be tempting to be lulled by that familiar refrain: that war is finally behind us, that international law, arms agreements, growing interdependence, liberal principles, globalization, free trade and common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible.
"But with the vastly greater power of weapons today, it would be much more than a pity to be wrong."
Rumsfeld said that is why Memorial Day is so important. If the dead could speak, he said, they would tell us that "liberty is fragile and that there are still enemies of freedom, and that with the power and reach of weapons today we must not be wrong. That we must be prepared to deter and to defend and to prevail so that future generations will not be called upon to make the same sacrifices."