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Remarks at Arlington Cemetery Veterans Day Service (11/11/00)

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                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release               November 11, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                           VETERANS DAY CEREMONY

                        Arlington National Cemetery
                                    Arlington, Virginia

11:45 A.M. EST

          THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  And
thank you, Secretary Gober, for your many, many years of friendship and
your service to our country.  Thank you, Mr. Duggins, for the remarks you
made today and your leadership of the Vietnam veterans.  General Jackson,
Superintendent Metzler, Chaplain Cook.  I think we ought to give a special
applause to Lee Thornton for being with us all these years and all the work
he's done.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  What a faithful friend to
America's veterans you have been.  (Applause.)

          I thank our Defense Secretary, Bill Cohen, and his wife, Janet,
for being here.  And Secretary Slater, General McCaffrey, the service
Secretaries, other members of the Cabinet and the administration, and
former Cabinet members who are here,  General Myers and other members of
the Joint Chiefs.  To the Medal of Honor recipients, the leaders of our
veterans organizations who have been introduced and who do such a fine job.
To the veterans and family members, members of the Armed Services, my
fellow Americans.

          I welcome you all to this sacred place, as we again pay tribute
to the men and women who have stood at the barricades so that we may enjoy
the blessings of liberty.  Here we are, surrounded by the white markers
that measure the last full measure of their devotion.

          Many veterans died in now historic places -- the Battle of the
Wilderness, Belleau Wood, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Vietnam, Kuwait.
Many others fought bravely, and thankfully, returned home to live out
happy, accomplished lives among friends, families and loved ones.  Still
others remind us that even when America is not at war, the men and women of
our military risk and sometimes give their lives for peace.

          Three such heroes were interred here just in the past few weeks.
They were members of the United States Ship Cole, working to preserve peace
and stability in a region vital to our interests, their lives taken on
October 12th by a brutal act of terrorism.  They are:  Hull Maintenance
Technician Second Class Kenneth Clodfelter, Electronics Technician Chief
Petty Officer Richard Costelow, and Signalman Seaman Cherone Gunn.

          Let us say to their families, and to all the families who lost
their loved ones on the Cole, we are grateful for the quiet, heroic service
of your loved ones.  Now they are in God's care.  We mourn their loss, and
we shall not rest until those who carried out this cruel act are held to
account.  (Applause.)

          We all saw the TV images of the Cole and the massive hole in its
side right at the water line.  But what many Americans still don't know
about is the heroism that took place after the attack.  What we couldn't
see was that entire compartments were flooded, hatches blown open, doorways
bent, parts of the top deck buckled.  So, in addition to finding and
bringing home the dead and the wounded, the surviving crew had to save
their ship.

          They worked around the clock, some in 22-hour shifts, amid smoke,
seawater and twisted steel, with no respite from the desert heat.  They
used their ingenuity to restore the ship's electrical power, so they would
no longer have to bail water by hand, bucket by bucket.  Some even slept on
the deck because the air below was too foul.

          In these incredibly difficult circumstances, one helicopter pilot
from a ship assisting the Cole wrote these words home:  "I wish I had the
power to relay what I have seen," he said, "but words just won't do it.  I
do want to tell you the first thing that jumped out at me -- the Stars and
Stripes flying.  Our flag was more beautiful than words can describe.  I
have never been so proud of what I do or of the men and women I serve

          Soon the Cole will be back home in America for repairs; and soon
thereafter, she will be back on the seas, serving America -- those Stars
and Stripes still flying.  We are greatly honored to be joined here today
by the Commander of the Cole -- the Captain of the Cole, Commander Kirk
Lippold; his Executive Officer, Lt. Commander Chris Peterschmidt; the
Command Master Chief James Parlier; and some 20 members of their crew.  I
was honored to welcome them at the White House this morning.  I would like
to ask them now to stand and have you welcome them.  (Applause.)

          There are many appropriate ways to honor not just the crew of the
Cole, but all the men and women who have defended liberty in our military
service.  We honor them, first of all, of course, by remembering them and
their accomplishments, as we do here.  Later today I will go to the
groundbreaking of the World War II memorial to honor the service and
sacrifice of the greatest generation -- of those who fought and died to
free the world of tyranny, totalitarianism, and hate.  And we will pledge
there never to stop trying to build the world for which they sacrificed so

          We also honor our veterans by cherishing with all our hearts the
freedoms they paid such a price to defend.  If ever there was a doubt about
the value of citizenship, and each individual's exercise of the freedom of
citizenship to vote, this week's election certainly put it to rest.
(Laughter.)  And if ever there was a question about the strength of our
democratic institutions in the face of healthy and natural political
argument, it has been answered by the measured response of the American
people to these extraordinary events.

          We have a Constitution; we have a rule of law; we voted, and now
the system is trying to figure out exactly what we said.  (Laughter and
applause.)  Eventually, they will -- the system will do that, according to
the Constitution and laws, and America will be just fine.

          We honor Vice President Gore and Governor Bush.  We honor all
those who participated and all those who voted.  And I hope they will
remind us that the next time the polls are open, without regard to our
party, our philosophy, we should show up because we certainly do count.

          We honor our veterans as well, in Abraham Lincoln's words, by
caring for him who should have borne the battle, and for his widow and
orphans.  Just a few days ago, I proudly signed legislation increasing
funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by $1.5 billion.  These
additional resources will help our nation's 24 million veterans, serving
more patients, ensuring high quality and timely medical care, improving the
delivery of benefit payments for veterans, increasing compensation for
disabilities, meeting our national shrine commitment to veteran cemeteries.

          We also recently provided a 3.7 across-the-board increase in
basic pay for the members of our Armed Forces; provided military retirees
access to prescription drugs with low out-of-pocket costs; and provided
lifetime health care coverage that will allow military retirees over 65 to
receive affordable, high-quality health care across our nation.

          Finally, we honor our veterans by meeting our part of the solemn
compact we have with each and every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and
Coast Guardsman, regardless of the conflict in which they fought, that we
will do all in our power to find them and bring them home if they are
captured, missing in action, or fallen on the battlefield.  (Applause.)

          Today I am proud to announce that we are bringing home another 15
sets of remains, heroes from the Korean War.  They are en route right now
from Pyongyang to Hawaii for identification.  And we praise God for this
event.  (Applause.)

          Tomorrow I will begin a trip to Asia that will end in Vietnam,
and I will be the first President to visit that country since 1969.  Over
the past decade, we have moved, step by step, toward normalized relations
with Vietnam, based on one central priority -- gaining the fullest possible
accounting of American prisoners of war and Americans missing in action in
Southeast Asia.  Continuing cooperation on these issues is on the top of my
agenda for this trip, even as we open a new chapter in our relations with

          Our nation has sought to move forward in developing those
relations in a way that both honors those who fought and suffered there,
and does right by the missing and their families.  We have done so with the
constant involvement and support of members of Congress who served in
Vietnam, America's Vietnam veterans and their families.

          The result has been tremendous progress, and today, full
cooperation from the Vietnamese in repatriating remains, accounting for
missing Americans, obtaining documents, and conducting over 60 joint field
activities with the Vietnamese to search for our MIAs.  As a result of that
increased cooperation, the remains of 283 Americans have been repatriated
since 1993.  (Applause.)

          On my second day in Vietnam, I will visit a sight where Americans
and Vietnamese have been searching for the remains of an American
serviceman.  We believe it to be the place where Air Force Captain Lawrence
Evert was downed on November 8, 1967.  I am pleased that I will be joined
at the sight by two of Captain Evert's sons, Dan and David.  We are honored
to have them and their sisters, Elizabeth and Tamra with us here today.  We
thank them, the members of the Evert family, for their devotion.

          When Captain Evert's plane was shot down 33 years ago, an airman
on another flight heard a voice on a radio transmission calling out, "I'm
hit hard."  That hit his loved ones' lives just as hard.  Again I say, we
thank them for their sacrifice, and we thank them for joining us here
today.  Where are the Everts?  Would you ask them to stand, please?  There
they are.  Thank you very much.  Bless you.  (Applause.)

          The presence of these two fine men on our trip will help us all
to make it clear in Vietnam that our work is not yet finished, and that
progress in our relations depends upon continued cooperation.  We will
always keep faith with these families, and do our duty to the past, for we
must never forget.

          In our national memory, Vietnam was a war.  But Vietnam is also a
country -- a country emerging from almost 50 years of conflict, upheaval
and isolation, and turning its face to a very different world.  A country
that can succeed in this new global age only if it becomes more
interdependent and open to the world.  This is something we should
encourage.  We should always remember something a great American Vietnam
veteran and former POW, Pete Peterson, said when he went to Vietnam as our
Ambassador:  "We cannot change the past.  What we can change is the

          The future belongs to veterans and their families who deserve all
the support and answers a grateful nation can provide.  It belongs to the
thousands of ordinary Vietnamese citizens who have helped them in this
process.  It belongs to the Vietnamese Americans who have come to live
among us, including right here in Arlington, and who now can finally travel
home to reunite with their families.  It belongs to all the good people who
have gone to Vietnam to help clear land mines and aid the victims of
flooding.  It belongs to the next generation of Vietnamese who want to live
in a normal, prosperous country, and to be free to shape their destinies
and live their faith.  It belongs to all those Americans and Vietnamese who
want to build a common future.

          On this first Veterans Day of the 21st century, the eighth and
last in which I will have the honor to address you and the people of our
nation as President, in this sacred place, let us resolve never to stop
trying to build that better world for which our veterans have sacrificed.
Let us all draw strength from the long legacy of service.

          When history looks back upon the records of our age and our
nation, centuries from now, I believe it will be written that once there
was a great nation of free people who sent their very best young men and
women out to serve on the frontiers of freedom in uniform.  They went forth
to defend their nation and its ideals, giving up the comforts and
conveniences of home.  Too many never returned to their families, but none
who served ever sacrificed in vain.

          They led lives of great consequence, for they kept the torch of
liberty burning in the oldest democracy on Earth.  Each and every one of
them were heroes, and gave to every child born thereafter a precious and
irreplaceable gift.  And their nation remained eternally grateful.

          Thank you, and God bless America.  (Applause.)

                             END      12:00 P.M. EST

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