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Bush Honors  Fallen Soldiers - 2003-11-11

U.S. President George Bush Tuesday paid tribute to American soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq as the country marks its Veteran's Day.

With more than one million Americans serving on active duty around the world, President Bush says the nation is deeply aware of the recent sacrifices in the fight against terrorism where, he says, U.S. soldiers have died securing freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The loss is terrible," said Mr. Bush. "It is borne especially by the families left behind. But in their hurt and in their loneliness, I want these families to know: Your loved one served in a good and just cause."

The president says those soldiers died in distant lands to fight terror, to advance freedom, and to protect America. While they did not live to be called veterans, he says the nation will never forget their lives of service.

Mr. Bush marked the day with a traditional wreath-laying and a moment of silence at Arlington National Cemetery. During ceremonies there, he told veterans that America always goes to war reluctantly and always does so for a noble cause.

"Those who serve and fight today are adding great achievements of their own to America's history," he continued. "America is grateful for their daring, grateful for their honor, and grateful for their sacrifice."

Last year on Veteran's Day, President Bush threatened to use the "full force of the U.S. military" against then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein unless he agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction.

More than six months after Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, none of those weapons has yet been found. Near-daily attacks in Iraq have killed almost 400 U.S. soldiers, more than half of them in the last six months.

Before his visit to Arlington cemetery, President Bush signed the Fallen Patriots Tax Relief Act which doubles the tax-free payment to families of fallen soldiers from $6,000 to $12,000.