For the sixth straight Memorial Day, American troops are fighting and dying overseas.
And for the sixth straight year, President Bush comes to Arlington National Cemetery as a wartime president to pay tribute to the fallen – first by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and then by delivering a message praising the men and women of the armed forces who have given their lives in service to this country.
“Today, America mourns the brave citizens who laid their lives down for freedom,” says Bush.
Bush is calling the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a part of the nation's destiny, and he is describing the American men and women who have died there “a new generation” of heroes. In his proclamation, the President says that those who have fought and died are examples of strength and perseverance:
“The greatest memorial to our fallen troops cannot be found in the words we say or the places we gather. The more lasting tribute is all around us – a country where citizens have the right to worship as they want, to march for what they believe, and to say what they think. These freedoms came at great costs, and they will survive only as long as there are those willing to step forward to defend them against determined enemies.”
President Bush also said Americans must always honor those who died serving their country, and be faithful to what they fought for.
However, on this holiday, Mr. Bush's duties as commander-in-chief seem more burdensome than ever before. He is aware that the Iraq war is taking its toll on the nation. Since his visit to Arlington last Memorial Day, nearly one-thousand American soldiers have died there. The president urged patience.
But for many Americans, patience with the war has run out. A record high of two-thirds say the war was not worth fighting, and 54-percent say they are angry about the war. And even as they pause to remember those who have fallen, 73-percent say it is possible to oppose the war while still supporting the troops.
“I think they should pull them out – I think sooner now that later,” says one woman. “No longer, because there's more fatality every day, and I think it's time to end it.”
Bush said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan follow a rich tradition of similar American sacrifices throughout the country's history. He praised those who continue to volunteer for the U.S. Armed Forces, despite the mounting casualties in Iraq. He said they are not “fatalists or cynics,” and that “they know that one day this war will end, as all wars do.”
Bush added, “Our duty is to make sure this war was worth the sacrifice.”
Earlier, Bush met privately at the White House with families of some fallen servicemen and women.