- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

President Bush yesterday attended Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery to praise U.S. troops who have fought oppression around the world.

“This day is dedicated to all who answered the call to service,” Mr. Bush said, “whether they live in honor among us or sleep in valor beneath this sacred ground.”

The ceremony was one of many that took place yesterday at war memorials around the country and the region, including sites of honor for World War II and Vietnam veterans.

At Arlington yesterday, Mr. Bush laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and paid homage to the more than 1.4 million Americans on active duty, calling them “our nation’s finest citizens.”

“They confront grave danger to defend the safety of the American people,” Mr. Bush said. “They’ve brought down tyrants. They’ve liberated two nations. They have helped bring freedom to more than 50 million people.”

At the U.S. Navy Memorial, the Naval District of Washington laid a wreath at the Lone Sailor Statue. The French War Veterans of Washington, D.C., also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington.

During a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, thousands paid respects to the men and women who were killed while serving in the armed forces during the war in Vietnam.

“The memorial … holds a special place in our nation’s heart,” said U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and served in the Air Force for seven years.

Mr. Wynne’s brother, Maj. Patrick E. Wynne, was killed in Vietnam in 1966. He was declared missing in action until his remains were discovered in 1974.

“Today is very much a day of remembrance and reflection,” Mr. Wynne said.

A long line of people waited to lay flowers and wreaths at the base of the black granite wall, which is engraved with 58,249 names honoring the Americans who died in the war.

The scene at the wall alternated between solemn and celebratory, as families remembered loved ones and soldier buddies reunited.

John Reichenberg, an Army veteran from Annapolis, his fiance and a group of fellow military veterans visited the memorial — a trip that Mr. Reichenberg for years had found too difficult to make.

“Up until ‘89, I couldn’t even think about coming here,” said Mr. Reichenberg, 61, who served two years in Vietnam beginning in 1968, almost immediately after graduating from college, “but they say it’s a ‘wall of healing.’ It’s really hard, but once you do it, it feels like a weight’s been lifted.”

Since he began attending the annual ceremonies at the memorial, Mr. Reichenberg has searched unsuccessfully for soldiers with whom he served.

“I’ve probably brought at least a half-dozen vets down here,” he said, “and every time, whoever I bring, they meet someone that was in [Vietnam] with them, and I haven’t done it yet.”

Yesterday was also the anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, dedicated in 1993.

“Three months ago, I walked through this national park for the first time, and while facing different monuments, I was overwhelmed at every stop,” said Elizabeth Lopez, a construction mechanic 2nd Class in the naval reserves.

Miss Lopez, of El Paso, Texas, also served in the Army seven years ago as a Patriot missile crew member in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

After completing her enlistment, she became a reservist in a Seabee Naval Reserve unit. She was recalled to active duty last year to serve in Iraq as a gunner.

She returned home earlier this year to El Paso, where she is a readjustment counseling specialist at a veterans center.

“I am very humbled to be here, in this sacred place of healing that pays tribute to many generations of veterans,” she said. “While I may not share the same battles that many of these great men and women have encountered, I do share a common connection with them.”

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