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Bush Urges Americans to Honor Holiday's Meaning

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2008 – President Bush encouraged Americans to remember the sacrifices of servicemembers during this Memorial Day weekend in his radio address this morning.

“Kids will be out of school, moms and dads will be firing up the grill, and families across our country will mark the unofficial beginning of summer,” Bush said. “But as we do, we should all remember the true purpose of this holiday – to honor the sacrifices that make our freedom possible.”

The president will commemorate Memorial Day on May 26 by visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb is the final resting place of American servicemembers who lost their lives in combat.

“The names of these veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War are known only to God,” he said. “But their valor is known to us all.”

This valor has preserved the way of American life and has secured the nation’s sacred freedoms, Bush said. He credited such bravery for winning the country’s independence, removing the stain of slavery from the United States, and for defeating totalitarian regimes of the last century.

Bush said military men and women today are facing “a new totalitarian threat to our freedom” in Iraq, Afghanistan and on other fronts around the world.

“They continue the proud legacy of those who came before them,” he said of current servicemembers. “They bear their responsibilities with quiet dignity and honor. And some have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country.”

The president cited late Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Sebban, the senior medic of a unit in the 82nd Airborne Division, as exemplary of such heroism.

As the senior medic in his squadron, Sebban made sacrifice a way of life, Bush said. When younger medics were learning how to insert IVs, he would offer his own arm for practice. And when the time came, he did not hesitate to offer his fellow soldiers far more.

In Iraq's Diyala province on March 17, 2007, Sebban saw a truck filled with explosives racing toward his team of paratroopers. He ran into the open to warn them, exposing himself to the blast.

“Ben received severe wounds, but this good medic never bothered to check his own injuries,” the president said.

Instead, Sebban devoted his final moments to treating others, said Bush, who presented a Silver Star to Sebban’s mother on the slain sergeant’s behalf.

“No words are adequate to console those who have lost a loved one serving our nation. We can only offer our prayers and join in their grief,” Bush said. “We grieve for the mother who hears the sound of her child's 21-gun salute. We grieve for the husband or wife who receives a folded flag. We grieve for a young son or daughter who only knows dad from a photograph.”

Suggesting ways in which Americans can honor the sacrifices he holiday recognizes, Bush said people can join a moment of remembrance that will be marked across the country at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. At that moment, Major League Baseball games will pause, the National Memorial Day parade will halt, Amtrak trains will blow their whistles, and buglers in military cemeteries will play “Taps.”

Bush also encouraged people to participate by placing a flag at a veteran's grave, taking family members to the battlefields where freedom was defended, or saying a silent prayer for Americans who died in service to their country.

“This Memorial Day, I ask all Americans to honor the sacrifices of those who have served you and our country,” he continued. “Their bravery has preserved the country we love so dearly.”

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