Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Bush salutes service members

GREAT COSTS The US president attempted to bounce back from a hammering over Iraq with a speech honoring America's war casualties

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush, left, applauds US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during Memorial Day ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

US President George W. Bush saluted on Monday all those Americans who had given their lives in military service and assured their loved ones that they were "honored and remembered by the United States of America."

Two days after dedicating a new memorial to Americans killed in World War II, Bush laid a wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and then delivered a Memorial Day address in which he acknowledged the "great costs" of the war in Iraq and tied it to the broader effort to combat terrorism.

"Since the hour this nation was attacked, we have seen the character of the men and women who wear our country's uniform," Bush said on a gray, rainy morning in the amphitheater at Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington.

"In places like Kabul and Kandahar, in Mosul and Baghdad, we have seen their decency and their brave spirit. Because of their fierce courage, America is safer, two terror regimes are gone forever and more than 50 million souls now live in freedom," he said.

On a day when two more American service members were reported killed in Iraq, the president said that the veterans of wars past and present would "carry with them for all their days the memory of the ones who did not live to be called veterans."

And Bush, who has been criticized for not attending funerals of those Americans killed in Iraq or allowing pictures of coffins returning to the US, addressed the loss suffered by family members through the nation's history.

"Markers on these hills record the names of more than 280,000 men and women," Bush said. "Each was once or still is the most important person in someone's life. With each loss in war, the world changed forever for the family and friends left behind. Each loss left others to go on, counting the years of separation, and living in the hope of reunion. Although the burden of grief can become easier to bear, always there is the memory of another time, and the feeling of sadness over an unfinished life."

Bush's presidency and his prospects for re-election have become largely defined by the war in Iraq, which will be his main topic when he delivers a graduation address at the Air Force Academy today and again on Sunday when he commemorates the 60th anniversary of D-Day at the American Cemetery in Normandy.

Bush was introduced at Arlington by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who received a rousing round of applause from the crowd. He responded by saying "Wow."

Rumsfeld, whose job seemed in jeopardy a few weeks ago after disclosures about the abuse of Iraqi detainees by US forces, praised Bush, who in turn thanked Rumsfeld for what he called "great leadership."

Bush quoted from a letter written by Private First Class Jesse Givens of the Army to his wife and children, to be read in the event of his death. Givens, of Springfield, Missouri, was 34 when he was killed on May 1 last year. His tank fell into the Euphrates River after the bank on which it was parked collapsed.

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