- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

With overcast skies and cooler-than-expected temperatures, Memorial Day crowds across the region were light in parks, at beaches and at ceremonies honoring Americans who gave their lives in war.

Smaller crowds meant safer roads, with fewer accidents, area police said.

And travelers started home early, leaving beaches mostly empty under rainy skies yesterday afternoon.

Returning home from the Maryland and Delaware shore, cars backed up as long as seven miles from 2 to 4 p.m. at the intersection of Maryland Routes 404 and 16, stretching to the Delaware border.

Scattered delays were reported elsewhere along the beach routes, including a two-mile rolling backup on U.S. Route 50 approaching the Bay Bridge.

About 350,000 vehicles were expected to cross the bridge during the long holiday weekend while 400,000 vehicles were expected to travel through the Fort McHenry tunnel in Baltimore.

The small city of Bedford, Va., about 225 miles south of the District, chose Memorial Day to dedicate part of the National D-Day Memorial honoring the 6,603 Americans killed along the coast of France during the invasion.

The rural farming community was chosen because the casualties from the invasion of Normandy Beach in 1944 hit the town harder than most. With a population of 3,200 that year, 19 of its 35 soldiers died in the first 15 minutes of the attack, and four more died in the following few days.

It was the most casualties per capita from any U.S. community.

Part of the memorial was dedicated yesterday a 44 and 1/2-foot granite arch and a sculpture, "Death on Shore," depicting a lone fallen soldier on the beach.

Jeannie Schulz, widow of "Peanuts" cartoonist and World War II veteran Charles Schulz, took over as campaign chairman of the National D-Day Foundation after her husband died in February.

"I think there are a few days in our history that should never be forgotten," Mrs. Schulz told the 4,000 people who endured chilly, intermittent rain. "Perhaps at times we have too many monuments, too many holidays and things of this kind, but D-Day is not one of them. It is one of the days we should never forget."

Mrs. Schulz and Virginia Lt. Gov. John Hager cut the ribbon, to thunderous applause from the crowd.

At Arlington National Cemetery, President Clinton, in his final Memorial Day observance, promised continued commitment to the search for lost American war dead and paid solemn tribute to families left behind.

"Americans never fought for empire, for territory, for dominance, but many, many Americans gave their lives for freedom," Mr. Clinton said following the traditional wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

"The United States will always honor and never forsake its fallen heroes, and we will not abandon their families," Mr. Clinton said.

At graduation ceremonies at Georgetown University's law school, retired Army Gen. Colin Powell praised Vietnam and Korean war veterans for their sacrifices in unpopular conflicts.

"These two wars claimed the lives of over 100,000 young Americans who were doing their duty," Gen. Powell told 1,000 graduates. "In one case, they saved a nation from communism that has become a thriving, wealthy democracy," he said of South Korea. "In the other, we lost the war and tyranny prevailed."

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the government installed in Vietnam after the war cannot last. "We may yet see that our ideals prevailed in Vietnam as well," he said.

On the Atlantic Ocean beaches, the day was a disappointment for visitors and a bust for businesses.

The few things that did sell quickly were $1 rain ponchos, umbrellas and puzzles that sold out at the Boardwalk 5&10 store in Rehoboth Beach, Del., said manager Ruth Henry.

"But suntan lotion? Forget it. We've got plenty. This was not one of our better Memorial Days," Miss Henry said yesterday.

Instead of manning the cash register or restocking shelves depleted by eager shoppers, she held a spray bottle of glass cleaner and paper towels. She was cleaning on what should have been one of her busiest days.

She threw her hands out at a full stand of sunglasses standing by the door. "That's a picture I don't want to see. I should be filling that stand up. Those sunglasses should be going out the door," she said.

Merchants like Miss Henry depend on holiday weekends like Memorial Day, seen by most as the start of the beach season, for a big chunk of their yearly revenue.

"The weather is absolutely horrible," Darlene Thurman, manager at the Cutty Sark hotel at the oceanfront, said yesterday. "We're having a tough time even opening the door to our hotel."

But Jeff Burton said his Tropicana Hotel operated at near 100 percent capacity throughout the weekend, which featured somewhat less miserable weather before yesterday.

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