Tuesday, May 29, 2001

President Bush used his first Memorial Day address as president to offer “the love of a grateful nation” to those who lost their lives in defense of America.
“Every Memorial Day we try to grasp the extent of this loss and the meaning of this sacrifice, and it always seems more than words can convey,” Mr. Bush said yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery. “All we can do is remember and always appreciate the price that was paid for our own lives and for our own freedom.”
Thousands of veterans, active military personnel and other Americans filled the white marble Memorial Amphitheater, and hundreds more crammed the adjacent steps opposite the Tomb of the Unknowns, where presidents since Warren Harding have led the nations Memorial Day services by paying their respects to Americas war dead.
Inside the amphitheater, the Air Force Band played patriotic music, but in front of the tomb visitors waited in silence for more than half an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to begin.
At 10:50 a.m., the first distant rumble of cannon fire from a 21-gun salute signaled Mr. Bushs arrival. As the crowd craned their necks toward the honor guard that lined Mr. Bushs route to catch the first glimpse of the president, a small girl on her fathers shoulder counted the blasts on the fingers of both hands.
There was a slight murmur as Mr. Bush emerged, but his expression reflected the solemnity of the occasion.
Mr. Bush stood with his hand over his heart as the Army Band played the national anthem and then methodically guided the traditional wreath, decorated with red, white and blue ribbons and flowers, the ceremonial distance to the tomb. The president then bowed his head as a bugler played taps.
Janet Kalma and her aunt, Helen Pyontek, traveled from their home in northern New Jersey to pay tribute to a relative buried at Arlington. Before visiting his grave, they stood in line for almost two hours for the chance to see Mr. Bush oversee the ceremony.
“It was so impressive,” Mrs. Kalma said. “It was like the chance of a lifetime.”
Before his address, Mr. Bush requested that those who served in World War II, their widows, and World War II orphans rise for special recognition.
Hours earlier at a White House ceremony, the president had signed a bill authorizing the long-awaited groundbreaking of a World War II memorial.
The action ends a court challenge to the monument from detractors who say it will ruin one of the great open spaces on the Mall.
“The generation of World War II defeated historys greatest tyranny,” Mr. Bush told a gathering of veterans earlier in the day. “Our nation must always remember their heroism and humility and terrible suffering. And that memory must be, and will be, preserved on the Washington Mall.”
While the presidents address spoke to the great national loss the headstones at Arlington represent, it also expressed sympathy for the families to whom one marker always stands out.
“Memorial Day gives formal expression to a very personal experience,” Mr. Bush said. “Their losses can be marked, but not measured. We can never measure the full value of what was gained in their sacrifice. We live it every day in the comforts of peace and the gifts of freedom. These have all been purchased for us.”
Mr. Bushs speech also emphasized Americas resolve to meet the challenge of its foes and looked with pride on those who represent the modern American military.
“Arriving here today, all of us passed the strong, straight figures of men and women who serve our country today. To see their youth and discipline and clarity of purpose is humbling to a commander in chief,” Mr. Bush said. “They are the new generation of Americas defenders. They follow an unbroken line of good and brave and unfaltering people who have never let this country down.”
After the ceremony ended, Susan and Bill Caldwell of Arlington filed out with their 7-year-old daughter, Grace.
The family had no gravestone to visit at Arlington yesterday, but every Memorial Day they come to the ceremony out of the gratitude Mr. Bush spoke of.
“I think its inappropriate that more people dont come out and pay their respects,” Mrs. Caldwell said. “Were hoping that when Grace grows up and she makes her own choices she will continue to come out.”

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