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Bush Honoring US War Dead At Normandy Invasion Site - 2002-05-26

President Bush goes to Normandy Monday to visit the graves of American soldiers killed in World War II. They died in the 1944 D-Day invasion, the turning point of of the war.

The graves seem to go on forever, row after row, filling the cliff over Omaha Beach.

About 9,000 American men and women are buried there, near the site of the invasion that ultimately led to the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

President Bush is going there on America's Memorial Day holiday, the day set aside in the United States to honor the nation's war dead. "All Memorial Days are solemn days, particularly for those who mourn the loss of a loved one," he said. "All Memorial Days are days in which Americans ought to give thanks for freedom and the fact that somebody sacrificed for their freedom."

This year, the holiday has an extra meaning. It is the first such observance to follow the September 11 attacks on the United States, and the start of the war on terrorism.

"This Memorial Day is the first Memorial Day in a long time in which younger Americans know first-hand the price that was paid for their freedom," he said.

French President Jacques Chirac will join Mr. Bush in Normandy. They will attend a special service in a small church in the first village, Sainte-Mere-Eglise, to be liberated on D-Day.

The French leader told reporters Mr. Bush's decision to spend Memorial Day in Normandy is a great honor for France. "This, I think, is a very strong gesture that we will not forget," he said.

After the church service, Mr. Bush will speak at the Normandy American Cemetery. He will also lay a wreath at a monument to the slain heroes of D-Day. A group of World War II veterans will serve as honor guards at the wreath-laying ceremony.