- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Thousands of past and present U.S. military personnel gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial yesterday afternoon to honor their brothers and sisters who served in the war.
The Veterans Day observance included Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts in Vietnam.
Under a gray and rainy sky, Mr. Kerry acknowledged the failure associated with the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, but he urged the crowd not to rob veterans of their pride.
"Nothing can lessen the courage with which they waged war," Mr. Kerry said. By the end of the campaign, troops were fighting "as much for the love of each other as for the love of the country that brought them there in the first place," he continued.
Mr. Kerry's speech culminated a week of memorial celebrations that included volunteers reading the names of all 58,229 troops who died in Vietnam and whose names are engraved on the memorial wall.
The keynote speaker, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Vietnam memorial has been a place of healing and reconciliation for troops, their friends and family.
"The one thing we must never forget is the service and selflessness of American veterans," said Gen. Myers, a Vietnam-era fighter pilot.
Some veterans wore camouflage and waved U.S. and POW-MIA flags during the ceremony, which included taps and wreaths.
A ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery included a speech by President Bush.
Therese Ayers, who was in the Women's Army Corps from 1976 to 1979, said the speeches by Mr. Bush and other speakers yesterday made her "proud to be a veteran again" because they thanked everybody involved with the military.
"I may not have been in a war, but I did serve," said Miss Ayers, a 46-year-old who traveled from Frederick, Md., to attend the ceremonies at the cemetery and at the memorial wall.
Miss Ayers, who served during the Cold War, said Mr. Bush's speech carried more weight than recent years' Veterans Day speeches by Vice President Richard B. Cheney and former President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Bush told the crowd at the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater that former servicemen and women can be proud of the strength and determination of U.S. troops now participating in the war on terror.
He said servicemen never invite war, but they will do what is needed to protect the country.
"Veterans do not take life for granted ," Mr. Bush said. "They know that duty and sacrifice are more than words."
Also speaking yesterday afternoon was retired Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the only woman to achieve the rank of three-star general. She said thousands of women served in Vietnam, but their contribution is often overlooked.
"The American military has never been so successful, and it has never been more diverse, and I think there's a connection," Gen. Kennedy said.

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