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Bush Leads Veteran's Day Observences - 2002-11-11

Across the United States, ceremonies are being held were held Monday to honor the men and women who served in the U.S. military. President Bush led Veterans Day observances in Washington.

It was just past dawn when the president took the short trip from the White House to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. An umbrella shielded him from a downpour as he walked slowly past the black granite walls, stopping to talk to small groups of veterans gathered nearby.

His first public comments came in a more formal setting: a White House reception attended by former soldiers, some of them frail, many in the faded uniforms of earlier wars. "You carry memories of great heroism and great suffering. You have seen the worst that men can do to one another and the best that men can do for one another," Mr. Bush said.

The president spoke of the estimated 25 million living military veterans in the United States. But at the same time, Mr. Bush remembered their fallen comrades in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice.

At Arlington National Ceremony, the president paid homage to all former soldiers, the living and the dead. "This is the place of national mourning and national memory," he said.

In a place where generations of soldiers are laid to rest, the president spoke slowly and reverently, mindful of his audience of gray haired veterans and the endless rows of graves nearby.

"You are witnesses to what was gained in our wars and what was lost. You carry the fine traditions and values of our military. And you share them by example. You have a special place in the life of America and America is proud of you," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush went on to talk about new military challenges: the war on terrorism and the Iraqi threat. But woven throughout his Veteran's Day appearances were words of respect for those who served in two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and other conflicts.

"Free nations are in debt to the long distinguished line of American veterans. And all Americans owe our veterans our liberty," he said.

America's Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, a day set aside to commemorate the 1918 armistice that ended World War I. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States.