Bush Visits Arlington Cemetery for Memorial Day

President Bush leads the nation in honoring those who have fallen in uniform. As the commander-in-chief does every year on Memorial Day, he visited Arlington National Cemetery this morning. The president spoke about service to country, sacrifice and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

With parades and ceremonies, at sporting events and backyard cookouts, Americans celebrated Memorial Day today. President Bush took part in commemorations to honor the country's war dead. This morning he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Later he spoke about service to country, sacrifice and the current campaign against terrorism. NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The flag above the White House was at half-mast as President Bush came outside, got into his limousine and headed for Arlington Cemetery.

(Soundbite of drumroll; "Taps")

GREENE: His first stop was the Tomb of the Unknowns. The remains of American soldiers from conflicts dating back to World War I lie here. The president placed a large wreath on a stand and stood in silence for a few seconds.

(Soundbite of plane passing overhead; clicking of cameras)

GREENE: Mr. Bush then walked a short distance to where a crowd of military families and veterans were waiting for him. For those who came in uniform to the ceremony, there were instructions written in the program: `Render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note.'

(Soundbite of "The Star-Spangled Banner")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) ...the brave.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

GREENE: The president was introduced by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Secretary DONALD RUMSFELD (Defense Department): It is an honor to introduce our commander in chief, the president of the United States of America.

(Soundbite of applause)

GREENE: Mr. Bush began by telling his audience about his stop at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He then spoke about soldiers whose identities were known and who lie beneath the white headstones here at Arlington as far as the eye could see.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: All who are buried here understood their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice. At a distance, their headstones look alike, yet every son or daughter, mom or dad who visits will always look first at one.

GREENE: And there are moms and dads feeling fresh loss, Mr. Bush said, over men and women who have died in war during his presidency. He told those families that their loved ones didn't die in vain.

(Soundbite of applause)

Pres. BUSH: The war on terror has brought great costs. For those who've lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, today's a day of last letters and fresh tears. Because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, two terror regimes are gone forever, freedom is on the march and America is more secure.

(Soundbite of applause)

GREENE: After leaving Arlington, the president returned to the White House. He was planning to take advantage of the fine weather on this holiday and go for a bike ride. David Greene, NPR News, Washington.

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