- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

President Bush yesterday told thousands of U.S. military members and their families that despite their sacrifices during wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “much more will be asked of you in the months and years ahead.”

“In Afghanistan and Iraq, the liberty that has been won at great cost now must be secured,” the president said at his first inaugural event of the week, “Saluting Those Who Serve,” which honored the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

“We still face terrorist enemies who wish to harm our people and are seeking weapons that would allow them to kill on an unprecedented scale. These enemies must be stopped, and you are the ones who will stop them,” Mr. Bush said to cheers from Army soldiers and “hoo-rahs” from Marines packed into the MCI Center.

The president said that while “the road ahead will be difficult and dangerous,” the armed forces allow America to “proceed with courage and with confidence.”

“History moves toward freedom because the desire for freedom is written in every human heart. And the cause of freedom is in the best of hands — the hands of the United States armed forces,” he said to more cheers.

The first inaugural event of the week was somber, with a cavalcade of stars, singers, and even a former president, reading emotional letters from soldiers who served in each of America’s wars. Former President George Bush read the letter he had written his parents after his bomber was shot down in World War II.

The president was also sober, praising members of the active military, wounded troops, more than 60 congressional Medal of Honor recipients, and family members of “our fallen soldiers.”

“Many here today have endured long separations from your families. We understand that, and we thank you for that. Some are preparing to do so. Others have suffered terrible injuries, wounds you will carry with you for the rest of your lives,” he said.

Opening the inaugural ceremonies, Mr. Bush mused about the 229-year custom of celebrating American democracy with balls and parades.

“With the election behind us, the American people come together in unity to celebrate our freedom,” he said. “A presidential inauguration is a testament to the power of democracy, a symbol of our confidence in the popular will and a sign of hope for freedom-loving people everywhere.”

The two-hour extravaganza included performances by some of the country’s top recording artists, including country singer Darryl Worley, who performed his hit, “Have You Forgotten?”

“I hear people saying we don’t need this war/I say there’s some things worth fighting for/What about our freedom and this piece of ground?/We didn’t get to keep ‘em by backing down,” he sang to thunderous applause from the crowd, which included Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

TV star Kelsey Grammar emceed the event, which included a segment by “Saturday Night Live” comedian Darrell Hammond, who performed his trademark impersonations of Mr. Rumsfeld and former President Bill Clinton.

Turning serious, Mr. Hammond implored: “Mr. President, can’t you do anything about Brad and Jennifer?”

Mr. Bush yesterday also attended two private receptions for supporters — one for Republican National Committee members and the other hosted by Jeanne Johnson Phillips, chairwoman of his inaugural committee, which raised the millions in private donations that funded the bulk of the events.

Later yesterday, he attended “America’s Future Rocks Today,” a youth event that included performances by singers Hilary Duff, “American Idol” Ruben Studdard and rock bands 3 Doors Down, Fuel and Boxkar.

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