Wars Past and Present
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RAY SUAREZ: This morning, President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac strolled through the first French village liberated by American soldiers on D-Day, 58 years ago. The two men attended church in the town of Sainte-Mere-L’Eglise to honor those who lost their lives during the invasion at Normandy, and as he would throughout the rest of the day in France, the President recalled American losses in recent months in central Asia.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We are here to pay tribute to those who sacrificed for freedom– both Americans and the French. It is fitting that we remember those who sacrificed because today we defend our freedoms. We defend our freedoms against people who cannot stand freedom.
PRESIDENT JACQUES CHIRAC (Translated): Mr. President, France knows the debt it owes to the U.S.A. In this part of the country so steeped in history, I offer you my thanks; my thanks for the many soldiers who spilled their blood in a country that was not their own; my thanks for all those who came and endangered their lives to defend values dear to both our nations: Peace, liberty, democracy, human dignity, tolerance and respect for others.
RAY SUAREZ: Then Mr. Bush spoke at the Normandy American cemetery, home to the graves of more than 9,000 Americans killed in World War II. The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach in northwestern France, the site of some of the heaviest casualties on D-Day.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We have gathered on this quiet corner of France as the sun rises on Memorial Day in the United States of America. This is a day our country has set apart to remember what was gained in our wars and all that was lost. Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live. Each person buried here understood his duty, but also dreamed of going back home to the people and the things he knew. Each had plans and hopes of his own and parted with him forever when he died.
The day will come when no one is left who knew them, when no visitor to this cemetery can stand before a grave remembering a face and a voice. The day will never come when America forgets them. Our nation and the world will always remember what they did here and what they gave here for the future of humanity.
On Memorial Day, America honors her own. Yet we also remember all of the valiant young men and women from many allied nations, including France, who shared in the struggle here and in the suffering. We remember the men and women who served and died alongside Americans in so many terrible battles on this continent and beyond. Words can only go so far in capturing the grief and sense of loss for the families of those who died in all our wars.
For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan. They can know, however, that the cause is just. And like other generations, these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow. Our security is still bound up together in a transatlantic alliance, with soldiers in many uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour. The grave markers here all face west, across an ageless and indifferent ocean to the country these men and women served and loved.
RAY SUAREZ: After the speeches, the President laid a wreath at the memorial. And there was a 21-gun salute and a military fly-over.
Late today, Mr. Bush flew to Rome where he will participate in a NATO-Russian meeting and have an audience with Pope John Paul II tomorrow.