Sunday, June 6, 2004

OTTAWA DAILY TIMES: President Bush honors the "Greatest Generation" during 60th anniversary of D-Day

COLEVILLE SUR MER, FRANCE -- Under clear skies and a glaring sun -- nothing like the stormy, wet morning some 60 years ago -- President George W. Bush paused to remember one great sacrifice of "The Greatest Generation."

"A D-Day veteran remembers the only thing that made me feel good was looking around to find someone more scared than I felt. That man was hard to find."

President Bush's words echoed across a garden of veterans, both those who are laid to rest in the Normandy American Military Cemetery, and those who have gathered to pay their respects to the fallen.

Men like Medal of Honor Recipient Walter H. Eehlers. Eehlers and his brother both fought in the D-Day invasion.

"I tell people that my brother was my greatest hero because we fought together through Africa and Sicily. This was our third invasion, and he didn't make it."

There are a million of stories like Eehlers. Men who were scared beyond belief and in the face of great peril they performed a miracle that our generation and those that follow can never repay.

They're the focus of this 60th anniversary commemoration on these hallowed grounds.

"These guys are here because they relied on each other to get the job done. If I might be so bold, this is the great strength of the United States of America," says actor Tom Hanks, who starred in the popular World War Two film "Saving Private Ryan."

"My Dad instilled in me the importance of remembering what the World War II veterans did in allowing the World War II to even exist because they saved the World," adds film director Steven Spielberg, whose father served in the China-India-Burma campaign.

Speaker of the House and U.S. Congressman from Illinois Dennis Hastert was also on hand to pay tribute to the veterans, including fellow politicians from Illinois.

"Bob Michaels served in the House of Representatives from Peoria. He was in D-Day plus four and later wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. I think it's important we have to let generations understand what these men fought for."

In a sign of solidarity, French President Jaques Chirac joined President Bush for the ceremonies near Omaha Beach. If there is any lingering disagreement on the U.S. occupation of Iraq or the War on Terror, those who pay their repsects here including Chirac, fully understand the sacrifice that was necessary to make his country, and an entire world, free.

Bush underscored the importance of the moment to the veterans that gathered here 60 years after one day in their lives that would change the course of world history.

"Greater love hath no man than this. That a man lay down his life for his friends. American honors all the liberators who fought in the noblest of causes. And America would do it again for our friends. May God Bless You."

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