- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 29, 2004

Statesmen and generals joined World War II veterans and their families yesterday during an interfaith service at the Washington National Cathedral to mark the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.

Former President George H.W. Bush was the final speaker at the hour-long “Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving,” taking the pulpit to give tribute to veterans and current members of the armed services.

“The men and women who make up our all-volunteer [armed forces] are every bit as great as any generation that preceded it,” said Mr. Bush, himself a World War II veteran. “The scope of World War II may have been greater, but the anxiety and pain is no less.

“So tonight when you go to sleep, say a prayer of gratitude, and remember the young men and women halfway across the world — they may be tired and scared, but they still put on their uniform [and serve],” he said.

Other speakers included retired Army Gen. John William Vessey Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Gen. P.X. Kelley, former Marine Corps commandant and chairman of the World War II Memorial Committee of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

The Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and dean of the cathedral, offered the invocation and welcomed the veterans and guests to the sixth-largest cathedral in the world.

Mr. Chane said “400,000 men and women sacrificed their lives and many thousand of others were wounded. Hundreds of thousands left their jobs to enlist in the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, while hundreds of thousands more worked side-by-side back home to support the war effort with their unselfish industry. … Today, we honor them all.”

Among the congregants were former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a veteran of World War II; his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican; Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican; House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat; and Winston S. Churchill, grandson of the British prime minister during World War II.

Hundreds of World War II veterans also attended.

Robert M. Peterson, 84, traveled from Nebraska with his family to attend the church service and memorial dedication on the Mall. The dedication was a priority for the solider, who was injured when shrapnel hit him on June 7, 1945.

“I walk all right,” Mr. Peterson said, pointing to the scar on his leg.

“It’s important to me to be here in remembrance of those who died in action. That’s the way I feel. Since I survived, my son made it possible for me to come,” said Mr. Peterson, who was a member of K Company, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Division.

Mr. Bush, whose airplane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during the war, yesterday paid tribute to other veterans and commended Mr. Dole and others for their unwavering determination to make the World War II memorial a reality.

“It’s altogether fitting and proper that we gather in this place to memorialize the people, places and events that forever changed history and turned back a rising tide of tyranny. The passing of time makes it easy to forget the 1930s and 1940s — times of uncertainty in our world,” Mr. Bush said.

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