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Bush, Democrats Honor US War Dead

  • Kent Klein

On Monday, Americans honor their military war dead. In his weekly radio address Saturday, President George Bush says Americans should remember the sacrifices of U.S. troops past and present. Democrats are also honoring those sacrifices, but are criticizing the administration's policies on the Iraq war and its veterans as well. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

In his radio talk, President Bush reminded Americans that the purpose of Monday's Memorial Day holiday is to recall the valor of U.S. troops who have died in the line of duty.

"Throughout American history, this valor has preserved our way of life and our sacred freedoms. It was this valor that won our independence. It was this valor that removed the stain of slavery from our nation. And it was this valor that defeated the great totalitarian threats of the last century," said Mr. Bush.

The president also saluted members of the U.S. military who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"Today, the men and women of our military are facing a new totalitarian threat to our freedom," he said. "In Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts around the world, they continue the proud legacy of those who came before them. They bear their responsibilities with quiet dignity and honor. And some have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country."

In the Democratic Party response, congressional candidate John Boccieri also paid tribute to Americans in uniform. Boccieri is a state senator in Ohio, as well as a major and C-130 pilot in the Air Force Reserve, and he has flown missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He attacked the Bush administration and Republican presidential candidate John McCain for their policies on the Iraq war.

"Neither President Bush nor John McCain has offered an exit strategy," he said. "While the Iraq war is costing us greatly in human terms, the money American taxpayers are pouring into that country is staggering. We are spending more than $10 billion a month on the war, while the quality of life for millions of Americans goes from bad to worse."

John Boccieri also criticized President Bush for opposing legislation to guarantee full college scholarships for those who serve in the U.S. military for three years. The Senate passed the measure on Thursday, 75-to-22.

"Sadly, President Bush has threatened to veto the bill," he said. "Senator John McCain, who hopes to take his place, not only opposed it, but when given the opportunity to support his fellow veterans on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, did not even show up to vote nor express his concerns."

McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam war, was campaigning on Thursday. He opposes the bill, as does the Pentagon, out of concern that providing such a benefit after only three years of service would encourage people to leave the military after only one enlistment. Instead, McCain and Republican colleagues proposed to increase benefits in conjunction with a veteran's length of service. Senate Democrats blocked that bill last week.

On Memorial Day, President Bush will place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. In his radio address, Mr. Bush asked all Americans to join in a moment of silent remembrance on Monday afternoon.

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