Monday, November 12, 2001

Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday laid a red, white and blue wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, honoring veterans and pledging victory in a current war against terrorism.
In New York, President Bush said during a visit to the site of the World Trade Center that Americans should use the Veterans Day holiday to reflect on the September 11 attacks and remember “the terrible harm that an enemy can inflict.”
Around the region and around the nation, Americans celebrated the traditional Veterans Day of Nov. 11 the federal holiday is observed today with somber ceremonies and gracious tributes, made more poignant by yesterday’s marking exactly two months since the terrorist attacks on America.
Mr. Cheney said the men and women of today’s military “follow a long, unbroken line of brave Americans who came to the defense of freedom.”
“The veterans who once followed that line now inspire the new generation of freedom’s defenders. For that, we honor all veterans today.
“Americans have no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead,” the vice president said. “We cannot predict the length or the course of the conflict. But we know with absolute certainty that this nation will persevere, and we will prevail.”
At a morning breakfast, Mr. Bush’s tribute to police, firefighters and rescue workers who responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which killed almost 5,000 people, won a standing ovation from an audience that included hundreds in various uniforms.
“Whenever an American hears the word ‘police’ or ‘fire,’ we think differently,” the president said. “We think differently about the job. We think differently about the character of those who serve on a daily basis.
“And in a time of war, we look a little differently at our veterans, too. Americans have seen the terrible harm that an enemy can inflict. And it has left us deeply grateful for the men and women who rise strongly in the defense of our nation.”
Mr. Bush began his speech at the breakfast by saying, “Let’s roll,” which was the phrase used September 11 by Todd Beamer before he led a group of passengers in a bid to overpower their hijackers, intent on destroying another national symbol. The plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field, and nobody on the ground was hurt.
At Arlington National Cemetery, military bands played patriotic songs, and honor guards paraded flags from various veterans’ groups under a clear, brisk autumn sky. A rousing rendition of “God Bless America” inspired a standing ovation and a sea of flag-waving.
Hours later, more than 5,000 veterans, mostly of the Korean and Vietnam wars, crowded with families in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the mall. They rose several times in ovations to speakers and joined lustily in singing the chorus of “God Bless the USA” with Grammy-winning composer and singer Lee Greenwood.
“The flag shall stand for freedom, and they can’t take that away,” they sang, many swaying side-to-side in rhythm.
Several speakers at the Vietnam memorial referred to September 11, saying veterans of those earlier wars shall inspire Americans in fighting the war against terrorism.
“We are here to pay tribute,” said Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. “Those who gave the last full measure can inspire us in the conflict we now face.”
After his New York breakfast, Mr. Bush visited the rubble of the World Trade Center. He stood silently during a ceremony in which flags were raised to represent the 86 nations and regions whose citizens were killed in the attacks.
Afterward, Mr. Bush signed a wall that listed all these nations.
“Good will triumph over evil,” wrote the president, his eyes watery, either by tears or the smoke from the rubble. “May God bless you all.”
Elsewhere in New York, patriotic spirit energized the annual ritual of military veterans and politicians marching through midtown Manhattan. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mayor-elect Michael R. Bloomberg were cheered as they laid a wreath at Madison Square Park, the starting point for the 18-block parade.
“It is a day in which all New Yorkers and all Americans now understand maybe better than ever what our veterans have done for us,” Mr. Giuliani said.
Many veterans said the September 11 attacks have won them a newfound respect from the public.
Wisconsin Army National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Kenny Denson helped dedicate a monument in Richland Center, Wis., to the Purple Heart, given to members of the armed forces wounded or killed in combat.
Brig. Gen. Denson got his medal after he was shot down over Vietnam but remembers changing into civilian clothes on his way home from his second combat tour.
“You got called some very nasty things in the airports before you even got home to see your mom and dad,” the general said. But with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Americans are thinking more favorably about the military, Brig. Gen. Denson said.
At Arlington also, the dead from the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers were called “the first casualties of a new war” by Robert S. Morrison, president of Quaker Oats Co., one of the corporate sponsors of the memorial.
“There never has been a time in my life in which it has been easier to say, ‘I’m an American,’” said Randall Wallace, screenwriter and producer of the movie “We Were Soldiers.”
Paul W. Critchlow, a Vietnam veteran who became a journalist and then senior vice president of Merrill Lynch & Co., spoke about his September 11 experiences near his office building close to the World Trade Center.
“I glanced over my shoulder. It looked like an avalanche,” he said.
Two weeks later, he returned to his office. Mr. Critchlow said he was “stunned” as he watched workers stand at attention as another body was removed from the rubble.
Americans must resolve to fight for freedom “regardless if the fight is popular or not,” said Mr. Critchlow, recalling how a childhood friend died when he was 19 in the Vietnam War. His 12-year-old son, Matt, living only a mile from the World Trade Center, has been fearful since the attacks, his father said.
“While I would be happy to serve my country in wartime, I would be happy if my son never has to,” Mr. Critchlow said.
Mr. Scruggs, who began organizing the Vietnam memorial services 20 years ago, said yesterday’s crowd was the largest and appeared to be the most emotional.
Bill Falk, a Vietnam veteran from Maine, usually makes the trip south on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This year’s ceremony at Arlington was especially poignant, he said.
“It allows me to get in touch, feel connected to things that matter,” he said. “Here there is such evidence of sacrifice, loyalty, sense of duty. I feel at home here.”
Bill Sammon in New York contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire-service reports.

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