- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

President Bush stood among the graves of nearly 300,000 veterans at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday and said that the United States must continue fighting the war on terror in the name of those who have already given their lives in the cause.

“The best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made,” the president said in a Memorial Day speech, quoting from a letter that Army 1st Lt. Mark Dooley wrote to his parents shortly before he was killed in September in the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

Mr. Bush noted that some 270 of the nearly 2,500 service members who have fallen since the September 11 terror attacks are buried at the nation’s most famous military cemetery, which he called several times a “place where valor sleeps.”

“On this Memorial Day, we look out on quiet hills and rows of white headstones — and we know that we are in the presence of greatness. Here, in the presence of veterans they fought with and loved ones whose pictures they carried, the fallen give silent witness to the price of our liberty — and our nation honors them, this day and every day,” Mr. Bush said.

While he said that America has “always gone to war reluctantly,” he added that the costs of the war against terror begun after the September 11, 2001, attacks are clear today.

“Our nation is free because of brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. Our nation mourns the loss of our men and women in uniform; we will honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives — by defeating the terrorists, by advancing the cause of liberty and by laying the foundation of peace for a generation of young Americans,” he said to applause from troops, families of the fallen and others gathered at the cemetery’s 5,000-seat white marble amphitheater.

The president also referred to soldiers from wars past and those still missing from the Vietnam War. “With us here are veterans who fought alongside them — and who have come today to pay their respects. They are joined by veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts across the globe, whose friends and comrades also lie in this sacred ground. As we pray for their fallen friends, we also remember those who went to war and are still missing, and we are determined to account for them all,” he said.

Mr. Bush remembered 2nd Lt. Jack Lundberg, killed two weeks after D-Day in World War II. “He wrote his Mom and Dad a letter to be opened in the event he did not come home. He wrote, ‘I am sorry to add to your grief … but we of the United States have something to fight for — never more fully have I realized that. The United States of America is worth the sacrifice.’”

The president spoke after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. In his speech, he said: “The names of those buried there are known only to God, yet their souls have entered into the spirit of America, and they will never be forgotten by our nation.”

Mr. Bush visited the cemetery shortly after signing into law a bill that restricts protests at military funerals.

At the White House, Mr. Bush signed the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act,” passed by Congress largely in response to the activities of a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country, claiming the deaths symbolized God’s anger at U.S. tolerance of homosexuals.

The new law bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before a funeral until an hour afterward. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Yesterday’s observance at Arlington National Cemetery was not a funeral, so protesters were free to demonstrate. Mr. Bush’s motorcade passed several on the way in, including a small group that held signs saying, “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

About a dozen people from the Washington chapter of FreeRepublic.com, a grass-roots conservative group, stood across the road with signs supporting U.S. troops. A large sign held by several people said, “God bless our troops, defenders of freedom, American heroes.”

Some 296,000 military members are buried at Arlington, most from the two World Wars and the Vietnam and Korean wars.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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