- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

An overflow crowd packed into Arlington Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater yesterday under gray and cloudy skies to honor relatives, friends and other soldiers who have fought in wars to defend and uphold U.S. democracy.

The Veterans Day ceremony was highlighted by the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“Americans are a peaceful people,” said President Bush, who placed a 4-foot-wide wreath on the tomb.

Among the roughly 5,000 people who attended the ceremony in Arlington were legions of veterans, many of them proudly wearing their uniforms.

“We liked what we heard,” said David Goldsmith, a 47-year-old Coast Guardsman forced to stand outside the amphitheater in an overflow crowd. “We liked what President Bush had to say.”

The hourlong program had special meaning for Mary Bruce, 64, of Mount Airy, Md., and her family.

Mrs. Bruce’s husband, Frank, a World War II veteran, and son Timothy, who died a few days after birth, are buried in Arlington.

She was joined yesterday by daughters Kim Mastan, 36, of Laurel, and 34-year-old Susan Bourna of Eldersburg, Md.

Mrs. Mastan described the ceremony as “touching.”

Said Mrs. Bourna: “We liked to see so many of the older people.”

Rain sprinkles began to fall as Mr. Bush placed the wreath on the tomb, but it didn’t discourage the spectators, many of whom were dressed for cold weather.

It did not bother Ella and Henry Karlsen who attended last year’s ceremony in a near downpour.

The Karlsens, Danish natives who came to the United States in 1964, had seats close to the stage last year because of the rain, for which Mrs. Karlsen was grateful because she has trouble hearing.

“Every time I come here, I cry,” Mrs. Karlsen, 82, said. “I was in Denmark during World War II. I thought that would end the wars.”

Mr. Karlsen, 76, is a retired carpenter. The couple has been married 52 years and lives in Ashburn, Va.

Air Force veterans Will Pentecost, 46, and Jeff Haydon, 45, arrived wearing leather Harley-Davidson jackets and caps covered with medals and insignias.

“We felt honored,” Mr. Haydon said. “There were a lot [of veterans] before us.”

They missed seeing Mr. Bush but arrived in time to watch several veterans’ groups solemnly place more wreaths on the tomb.

The men, from Manassas, were late because they had stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, along with thousands of others yesterday.

The visitors left cards, letters, flowers and flags along the wall and near the engraved names of dead relatives and friends. Many put paper over the engraved names, then rubbed lead pencils across them, which reproduced the names for their memoirs.

Barely 35 yards away, crowds occasionally gathered Monday night and yesterday around the statue of nurses caring for a wounded soldier. It was the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

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