- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

Today, the nation will have a moment.

The White House has asked all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. to remember those who never made it home — military heroes of every lost patrol or deadly firefight, the stalwarts slain on a frozen field or in a brutal jungle.

The National Moment of Remembrance is a 60-second haven from holiday caterwaul, a chance to be still and ponder the fallen, ourselves and the true mettle of America.

“This puts the ‘memorial’ back into Memorial Day,” said Carmella LaSpada, chairman of the new White House Commission on Remembrance. “Wherever you are, just stop, just remember those who paid the price for our freedom. It connects us, it gives us a sense of our history.”

The simple, voluntary gesture is meant to enhance rather than replace traditional Memorial Day ceremonies, Miss LaSpada said.

“Today is not about beach reports and holiday sales. It’s about remembering,” she said.

The commission suggests that people at a family barbecue, racing down the freeway or midstride at the mall can stand quietly, pray, ring a bell, recall a loved one or turn on auto headlights. Communities can face an American flag, hand on heart, or salute military families, whether active or retired.

The “moment” has gone beyond the personal. Disney theme parks, national museums, Madison Square Garden, airports, bus lines, ships at sea, the Empire State Building, the International Space Station and Amtrak have signed on to participate by sounding horns at the given time.

“On This Day,” a new Memorial Day anthem composed by Broadway veteran Charles Strouse, can be heard at the commission’s Web site, https://remember.gov. The anthem was recorded by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard bands, and sung by tenor Daniel Rodriguez, the New York City police officer who sang “God Bless America” at ground zero and elsewhere shortly after September 11.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense intends that all U.S. troops get appropriate recognition through Operation Tribute to Freedom, an ongoing nationwide program of activities in both civilian and military locations.

“Our men and women in uniform have performed brilliantly and have sacrificed much in the global war against terrorism,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday. “They have earned the thanks of all Americans.”

The Department of Defense is encouraging Americans to send “Welcome Home” or “Well Done” messages to troops though a new information Web site, www.defendamerica.mil.

“Nobody wants that post-Vietnam syndrome of ignoring the returning forces,” noted one military source at the Pentagon.

The scope of acknowledgment is an indicator of change since the days when veterans returned to silence or scorn three decades ago.

The National Memorial Day Concert on the Mall last night featured tributes to troops and September 11 victims — and was broadcast to military personnel in 135 countries via Armed Forces Radio and TV.

The 14th Air Force Association “Flying Tigers,” the 101st Airborne Division Association, the Voiture Nationale Society, the Pacific-American Veterans, Native American Women in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Oneida Indian Nation and Women in Military Service are among groups who will hold a wreath-laying ceremony or honorary roll call in Arlington National Cemetery today.

The Department of Defense also has widened its message of gratitude.

“It is equally important that we remember the families of our fallen servicemen and women. We will keep them in our hearts, prayers and thoughts on this day, and every day,” USAF Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday.

Families of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will get an early surprise today. The unit is returning home after nine months of duty in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Kenya, Djibouti and Kosovo — and is scheduled to arrive at Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune via landing craft at 7 a.m., a spokesman said.

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