WASHINGTON – President Bush urged Americans on Saturday to take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to "appreciate the price that was paid for our own lives" by those who serve in the nation's armed forces.
In his weekly radio address, taped before he went to Camp David, Md., for the weekend, Bush said he would mark Memorial Day by holding a White House breakfast Monday for military veterans "who knew and remember the people who never came back from our nation's wars."
"We are in their debt, more than a lifetime of Memorial Days could ever repay," Bush said. "In the end, all we can do is be thankful. All we can do is remember and always appreciate the price that was paid for our own lives and our own freedom."
The president, who served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, referred fleetingly to the military service of his father, a Navy aviator during World War II.
"Most of us know war veterans; I had the privilege of being raised by one," Bush said. "Usually, they are reticent about their experiences. It is often difficult for them to think back on those names and faces, on the ones who never lived to be called veterans. But on Memorial Day, we accept our obligation to do just that."
He called on Americans to "remember the heroism, the hardship, the national gain and personal loss" of war. Presidents, he said, have made the decisions in the White House, but the success — or failure — of those decisions rested on the shoulders of the men and women who fought those wars.
"America has been given so much, but of all our assets, resources and strengths, none have counted for more than the courage of young soldiers in the face of battle," Bush said. "Victory has always come down to the people flying the planes, manning the ships, carrying the gun and the pack. ... They have defended us. They have died for us. They have never disappointed us."
After Monday's breakfast, Bush plans to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery before flying to Mesa, Ariz., for another Memorial Day ceremony.