|President Bush departs White House to attend United States Naval Academy graduation in Annapolis, Md, Friday |
President Bush used his Saturday radio address to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Meanwhile, retired Army General Wesley Clark, who was a candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, spoke of the need to honor veterans and current troops by providing them with adequate health care.
Mr. Bush urged all Americans to take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
"Our citizens live in freedom because patriots are willing to serve and sacrifice for our liberty," said George W. Bush.
On Monday, the president will visit Arlington National Cemetery to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. More than 260,000 people are buried at Arlington Cemetery, including veterans from all the nation's wars, from the 1776 American Revolution to present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Bush said it is also important for Americans to remember the troops who are currently serving their country.
"Today a new generation of Americans is making its own sacrifice on behalf of peace and freedom, and some have given their lives," he said.
More than 1,600 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and close to 200 U.S. casualties have been reported in Afghanistan. President Bush said that as the country mourns their loss and honors their sacrifice, Americans should remember that these men and women believed deeply in what they were fighting for.
Retired Army General Wesley Clark, who delivered the Democratic Party's radio address, said that Memorial Day brought back memories of the men he served with in Vietnam.
"For me, Memorial Day is very personal," General Clark said "This Monday, I will be remembering those in uniform who served in World War II and Korea and inspired me to enter military service in 1962. But like many others of my generation, I will also be remembering the many times I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. I will remember those who selflessly gave their lives and paid the ultimate price so that we could live in freedom."
General Clark also used his address to insist that troops who return home, particularly those from Reserve or National Guard units, receive the respect and honor they deserve in the form of adequate health care.
"We insist that Reservists and National Guardsmen receive health insurance through TriCare, the military's health care system, just as the active force does," he said. "And just as importantly, we have got to keep our promises to veterans and provide them the medical care they need. That means fully funding the Veterans Administration system."
Earlier this month the Republican-led Congress rejected a plan to permanently extend health care coverage to National Guard and Reserve members and their families. The bill would have given them similar benefits as active-duty troops. Many Republicans said the proposed legislation was too expensive.