MARGRATEN, Netherlands – Surrounded by white crosses marking the graves of American soldiers, President Bush on Sunday remembered World War II (search) veterans who "did not live to comb gray hair" like the veterans who listened to his speech and are living through another foreign war.
"Freedom is a permanent hope of mankind," Bush said in a visit to the only U.S. military cemetery in the Netherlands. "And when that hope is made real for all people, it will be because of the sacrifices of a new generation of men and women as selfless and dedicated to liberty as those we honor today."
Bush marked the 60th anniversary of the May 1945 signing of the Berlin armistice that ended the war in Europe at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial (search). It is Europe's third-largest cemetery for America's war dead, with 8,300 graves.
"On this peaceful May morning we commemorate a great victory for liberty, and the thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price we pay for that victory," Bush said in brief, 13-minute remarks delivered on a wet, gray morning.
Bush said the allied soldiers who defeated the better equipped Nazi Germans (search) proved that "there is no power like the power of freedom, and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom."
"On this day, we celebrate the victory they won, and we recommit ourselves to the great truth that they defended, that freedom is the birthright of all mankind," Bush said. "As the 21st century unfolds before us, Americans and Europeans are continuing to work together and are bringing freedom and hope to places where it has long been denied: in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon, and across the broader Middle East."
In socially liberal Holland, Bush's use of military might in his effort to spread democracy are widely unpopular. But in the region around the cemetery, within walking distance of the German and Belgian borders, Americans are fondly remembered for their wartime rescue. In honor of the deaths incurred by U.S. forces as they set off from near here for the deadly but successful blitz toward Berlin, many local Dutch still bring flowers.
Bush thanked them for that gesture.
"We come first to remember the young Americans who did not live to comb gray hair," he said before a crowd of thousands of locals and about 100 aging Dutch and American World War II veterans. "Each man or woman buried here is more than a headstone and a serial number."