- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

President Bush yesterday urged Americans to remember the sacrifices of U.S. servicemen and women who died in uniform and to honor the memories of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“On this day, especially, our nation is grateful to the brave and fallen defenders of freedom,” Mr. Bush said during a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. “Today, we recall that liberty is always the achievement of courage.”

Inside the cemetery’s 83-year-old Memorial Amphitheater, near the Tomb of the Unknowns, Mr. Bush spoke to an audience of more than 5,000 that included Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including its chairman, Gen. Richard B. Myers; military veterans and the families of some of the soldiers who died in Iraq.

“We remember all who have died, all who are still missing and all who mourn,” Mr. Bush said after placing a wreath on the tomb.

The president added a bit of levity to the solemn proceedings when he read from a letter written by Army Staff Sgt. Lincoln Hollinsaid, 27, of Malden, Ill. Staff Sgt. Hollinsaid, writing from the Middle East, told his family that he enjoyed getting mail. “‘I wish my truck and boat knew how to write. I sure do miss ‘em,’” Mr. Bush said, quoting Staff Sgt. Hollinsaid, who was killed April 7.

The president also read from a letter that Army Capt. James Adamouski, 29, wrote to his bride of seven months, Meighan, 29.

“‘I do my job 110 percent and don’t get distracted or discouraged when I’m out flying on missions,’” Mr. Bush read. “‘However, when I have some down time and get to really thinking, I realize that for all the good things we’re doing here, I just plain miss you.’”

The Springfield, Va., soldier died in a helicopter crash on April 2.

Among those mourning at Arlington National Cemetery was Dorothy Halvorsen, 70, of Bennington, Vt. Her son, Chief Warrant Officer Erik Halvorsen, 40, was killed in the same Black Hawk crash that claimed Capt. Adamouski.

Mrs. Halvorsen came to Washington with her daughter Brenda, 39, to meet with other families grieving the loss of servicemen and women.

“Just knowing that a lot of people are going through the same thing makes you feel … that you’re not alone,” said Mrs. Halvorsen. It was her first visit to Washington for Memorial Day.

Also at Arlington were Courtney Hug, 12, of Chicago, and Carolyn Horton, 11, of Manassas, who both lost their fathers in military service.

Courtney’s father, Lt. Christian Hug, died 10 years ago in Maryland. Most of Courtney’s friends “don’t really know” the true meaning of Memorial Day, she said.

“It’s fun and a day off of school, but that’s not what it’s really about. It’s about remembering people who died in war,” Courtney said.

Gen. Myers and Mr. Rumsfeld both made brief remarks before Mr. Bush’s address. Mr. Rumsfeld, who championed the successful wartime strategy of striking quickly into the heart of Iraq, warned of “new threats.”

“They will be met with the same courage and the same commitment, and like the foes of times past, they will be defeated,” he said.

Though foul weather dampened plans for celebrations and ceremonies in many places, it did not stop Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, Mich.

In the Detroit suburb, where about 30 percent of residents claim Arab ancestry, thousands marched through drizzle on flag-lined streets to celebrate the liberation of Iraq.

Akram Al-Mohammed, who came to the United States from Iraq with his wife eight years ago, said attending the Memorial Day event was a way to thank the soldiers.

“We came to share the celebration together with the American people,” Mr. Al-Mohammed said. “This year we are very happy because our old president is gone. We’ve got freedom in our country.”

On the National Mall in Washington, six names were added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

In Timonium, Md., Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. spoke to wounded soldiers and their families and friends. He thanked the soldiers for their service and said those who died did so to protect the United States from terrorists intent on destroying its freedoms.

The Memorial Day holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, began in the 1860s when communities decorated the graves of soldiers killed in the Civil War.

Despite the heightened terror alert, an estimated 35 million Americans took advantage of the three-day weekend to travel, AAA reported. That was a small increase over the number of people who traveled last year. In the metropolitan area, AAA Mid-Atlantic had projected 500,000 travelers but reduced those estimates because of less-than-ideal weather.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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