The Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Va. — President Bush declared Monday that “America is safer” because of its fighting forces while Sen. John Kerry went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in somber but historically asymmetrical Memorial Day tributes.
“Through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly,” said Bush, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. “In places like Kabul and Kandahar, in Mosul; and Baghdad, we have seen their decency and their brave spirit.”
A charcoal sky and light mist hung over the remembrance as if to underscore the solemnity of Bush’s speech, Kerry’s visit to the Vietnam monument and a parade along historic Independence Avenue. A smattering of World War II veterans marched with people, in some cases, three generations younger, capping a weekend highlighted by the formal opening Saturday of the National World War II Memorial.
Frances and John Carter, both 82, were separated by an ocean during World War II; he was a paratrooper and she was a “Rosie the Riveter,” one of the thousands of women who went to work at home to support the soldiers abroad.
It was a day when political rhetoric was somewhat muted, eclipsed here by public tributes and the playing of “Taps.” Bush did take a moment to praise Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld for “your great leadership,” however.
And Kerry resumed his political campaign in earnest later Monday in Virginia.
Traditional Memorial Day observances including picnics and parades were played out coast to coast — half a world away from U.S. fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overseas, the conflict raged.
Two Americans died Monday as U.S. troops clashed with Shiite militiamen in fighting that strained a cease-fire called last week around the holy cities of Kufa and Najaf. And in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near U.S. coalition headquarters, killing four people and injuring 25. Two other American soldiers died over the weekend in separate attacks, the U.S. military said.
Still, American soldiers took time to remember their slain comrades during holiday ceremonies across Iraq.
“When we return to our home stations, we must ensure that we never forget those fallen comrades that deployed with us that will not return to their loved ones,” Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer here, said during a ceremony at Baghdad’s Camp Victory. “They must not have died in vain.”ear ago at this time, more than 160 American soldiers had been killed in Iraq. The total since has risen to more than 800, and last week the Pentagon reported that the number wounded in action is approaching 4,700.