- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

The region celebrated Memorial Day yesterday with a show of somber put powerful support for service members fighting around the world and for those who fought in previous wars.

“Today, we honor the warriors who fought our nation’s enemies,” President Bush said at the annual service at Arlington National Cemetery. “We pray our country may always prove worthy of the sacrifice they made.”

Mr. Bush, who placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, called servicemen and women killed in Iraq a “new generation of heroes,” and pointed out that many on active duty have asked for extensions to their enlistments.

“We’re an amazing country to produce such fine citizens,” he said.

Later in the day, thousands gathered along Constitution Avenue Northwest for the National Memorial Day Parade that featured floats, marching bands and hundreds of veterans.

Viewers also caught a glimpse of actors playing Presidents Washington and Lincoln with their respective wives, Martha and Mary, and President Theodore Roosevelt in Rough Rider gear.

Veterans said that Memorial Day is a day to remember the people with whom they fought but who did not make it home.

“This is a day to honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Patrick Kerner.

Most shared that sentiment, and many added that this Memorial Day was different from those after the Vietnam War because members of the nation’s armed forces now are more respected than shunned.

“It’s time to remember our fallen comrades,” said retired Army Col. Steve Cobb of the Order of the Purple Heart. “We support our troops even if we don’t support the war.”

Some veterans said they think Americans are supportive of the troops but maybe not as much as they should be because terrorists don’t appear to pose the same threat Germany and Japan did in World War II.

“If it hadn’t been for what we did, you might be speaking German or Japanese right now,” said retired Air Force Maj. William G. Wilkerson, 80, who was one of World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen, the Army Air Corps’ first all-black combat unit.

Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Ed Schnug, 79, of the Order of the Purple Heart, said, “Let’s wake up and participate with the troops. It’s not like World War II, when everyone jumped in. We need to pitch in and help out.”

JoAnn Straatveit, 59, came to the parade to show support for her husband, Army Spc. 4 Nils Straatveit, a Vietnam veteran who said half his platoon was killed or wounded in Vietnam.

“My heart is with him,” Mrs. Straatveit said. “It makes you exude with so much pride to see what people have done for this nation.”

James and Jody Brashears, both 31, said they did not come downtown for the parade, but said they still were proud of America’s troops.

“It’s nice to know someone is out there protecting us,” Mrs. Brashears said.

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