President Bush was at Normandy for Memorial Day 2002

In trying to justify the fact that Obama will not be at Arlington on Memorial Day, it has been published that “Bush missed 2002” to justify his absence.

He was at NORMANDY instead.  Not Texas.  Not Chicago.  Normandy.

Office of the Press Secretary
May 27, 2002

President Bush Commemorates Memorial Day at Normandy
Remarks by the President in Memorial Day Commemoration
The Normandy American Cemetery
Colleville-Sur-Mer, Fran

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President and Mrs. Chirac; Secretary Powell and Secretary Principi; members of the United States Congress; members of the American Armed Services; veterans; family members; fellow Americans; and friends: We have gathered on this quiet corner of France as the sun rises on Memorial Day in the United States of America. This is a day our country has set apart to remember what was gained in our wars, and all that was lost. President George W. Bush gives a Memorial Day at the Normandy American Cemetery at Normandy Beach in France on May 27, 2002. White House photo by Paul Morse.

Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today, and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live.

This day of remembrance was first observed to recall the terrible casualties of the war Americans fought against each other. In the nearly 14 decades since, our nation’s battles have all been far from home. Here on the continent of Europe were some of the fiercest of those battles, the heaviest losses, and the greatest victories.

And in all those victories American soldiers came to liberate, not to conquer. The only land we claim as our own are the resting places of our men and women.

More than 9,000 are buried here, and many times that number have — of fallen soldiers lay in our cemeteries across Europe and America. From a distance, surveying row after row of markers, we see the scale and heroism and sacrifice of the young. We think of units sustaining massive casualties, men cut down crossing a beach, or taking a hill, or securing a bridge. We think of many hundreds of sailors lost in their ships.

The war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, told of a British officer walking across the battlefield just after the violence had ended. Seeing the bodies of American boys scattered everywhere, the officer said, in sort of a hushed eulogy spoken only to himself, “Brave men, brave men.”

All who come to a place like this feel the enormity of the loss. Yet, for so many, there is a marker that seems to sit alone — they come looking for that one cross, that one Star of David, that one name. Behind every grave of a fallen soldier is a story of the grief that came to a wife, a mother, a child, a family, or a town.

A World War II orphan has described her family’s life after her father was killed on a field in Germany. “My mother,” she said, “had lost everything she was waiting for. She lost her dreams. There were an awful lot of perfect linen tablecloths in our house that never got used, so many things being saved for a future that was never to be.”

Each person buried here understood his duty, but also dreamed of going back home to the people and the things he knew. Each had plans and hopes of his own, and parted with them forever when he died.

The day will come when no one is left who knew them, when no visitor to this cemetery can stand before a grave remembering a face and a voice. The day will never come when America forgets them. And our nation and the world will always remember what they did here, and what they gave here for the future of humanity.

As dawn broke during the invasion, a little boy in the village off of Gold Beach called out to his mother, “Look, the sea is black with boats.” Spread out before them and over the horizon were more than 5,000 ships and landing craft. In the skies were some of the 12,000 planes sent on the first day of Operation Overlord. The Battle of Normandy would last many days, but June 6th, 1944, was the crucial day.

The late President, Francois Mitterrand, said that nothing in history compares to D-day. “The 6th of June,” he observed, “sounded the hour when history tipped toward the camp of freedom.” Before dawn, the first paratroopers already had been dropped inland. The story is told of a group of French women finding Americans and imploring them not to leave. The trooper said, “We’re not leaving. If necessary, this is the place we die.”

Units of Army Rangers on shore, in one of history’s bravest displays, scaled cliffs directly in the gunfire, never relenting even as comrades died all around them. When they had reached the top, the Rangers radioed back the code for success: “Praise the Lord.”

Only a man who is there, charging out of a landing craft, can know what it was like. For the entire liberating force, there was only the ground in front of them — no shelter, no possibility of retreat. They were part of the largest amphibious landing in history, and perhaps the only great battle in which the wounded were carried forward. Survivors remember the sight of a Catholic chaplain, Father Joe Lacey, lifting dying men out of the water, and comforting and praying with them. Private Jimmy Hall was seen carrying the body of his brother, Johnny, saying, “He can’t, he can’t be dead. I promised Mother I’d look after him.”

Such was the size of the Battle of Normandy. Thirty-eight pairs of brothers died in the liberation, including Bedford and Raymond Hoback of Virginia, both who fell on D-Day. Raymond’s body was never found. All he left behind was his Bible, discovered in the sand. Their mother asked that Bedford be buried here, as well, in the place Raymond was lost, so her sons would always be together.

On Memorial Day, America honors her own. Yet we also remember all the valiant young men and women from many allied nations, including France, who shared in the struggle here, and in the suffering. We remember the men and women who served and died alongside Americans in so many terrible battles on this continent, and beyond.

Words can only go so far in capturing the grief and sense of loss for the families of those who died in all our wars. For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan. They can know, however, that the cause is just and, like other generations, these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow.

Long after putting away his uniform, an American GI expressed his own pride in the truth about all who served, living and dead. He said, “I feel like I played my part in turning this from a century of darkness into a century of light.”

Here, where we stand today, the new world came back to liberate the old. A bond was formed of shared trial and shared victory. And a light that scattered darkness from these shores and across France would spread to all of Europe — in time, turning enemies into friends, and the pursuits of war into the pursuits of peace. Our security is still bound up together in a transatlantic alliance, with soldiers in many uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour.

The grave markers here all face west, across an ageless and indifferent ocean to the country these men and women served and loved. The thoughts of America on this Memorial Day turn to them and to all their fallen comrades in arms. We think of them with lasting gratitude; we miss them with lasting love; and we pray for them. And we trust in the words of the Almighty God, which are inscribed in the chapel nearby: “I give unto them eternal life, that they shall never perish.”

God bless. (Applause.)

Posted:  05.31.10

Ronald Reagan missed:

1981 Recovering from an Assassination attempt

1983 G7 Summit in Virginia

1987 issued proclimation for prayer

1988 Summit in Moscow

George H. W. Bush, missed all:

His patriotism was not in question.  He is a distinquished WWII veteran.

And Bill Clinton missed none.

So it is so much more than our president being at Arlington on Memorial Day.  It’s something else that is gnawing and nagging at us about his patriotism.  When there is a lack of trust, almost anything raises questions.


Filed under Human Interest, patriotism, politics, President Barack Obama, Uncategorized

8 responses to “President Bush was at Normandy for Memorial Day 2002

  1. steve

    Let’s set the record straight. Mr. Obama will participate today in a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, about 50 miles south of Chicago. He is not the first president to be away from Washington on a patriotic holiday.

    The critics were either ignorant of the facts or they failed to mention the 2007 Veterans Day ceremony when Vice President Dick Cheney spoke while President George W. Bush observed the holiday in Texas.

    Vice President Dan Quayle laid the wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day, 1992. I recall covering President George H.W. Bush, a distinguished World War II vet, as he marked the holiday that year at his favorite vacation spot, Kennebunkport, Maine, where he spoke to a veterans group.

    Back in 1983, a Defense Department official laid the Memorial Day wreath at Arlington when Ronald Reagan was at a G-7 Summit meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia.

    This is far from a complete list, but presidents have been at places other than Arlington on Memorial Day.

    Some of Mr. Obama’s conservative critics have also used his Memorial Day plan to question his commitment to the military.

    Like his predecessors, Mr. Obama has expressed deep feelings about the troops in both words and deeds, often with as little fanfare as the presidency allows. Like other presidents, he meets privately with the families of the fallen. He watches developments in the buildup in Afghanistan and the planned drawdown in Iraq.

    Unlike other presidents, he paid a middle of the night somber visit to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to witness the return of dead soldiers.

    Perhaps the most eloquent statement on Mr. Obama’s stand on the military comes from Gold Star Mother Carol Barbieri of Maryland. Her son, Army Specialist and paratrooper Thomas “TJ” Barbieri, was killed in Iraq in 2006.

    TJ’s brothers Stephen and Matthew were visiting his grave at Arlington on Veterans Day last year when Mr. Obama stopped to pay his respects. He asked about their loved one and expressed his appreciation for the sacrifice.

    Responding to e-mailed questions last week, Mrs. Barbieri told me the family was grateful that the president “took the time to honor the memory and sacrifice of TJ, along with those of all of the others laid to rest alongside our son.”

    She noted it was apparently the first time that any president visited the graves in Arlington’s Section 60, the burial place of many troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Asked about the president’s decision to visit the Illinois cemetery on Memorial Day, Mrs. Barbieri said she and her husband Tom “both feel that there is no exclusivity for bravery and valor.”

    She noted, “Our heroes are interred all over the nation. The President of the United States should be remembering and honoring the men and women who have fought for this country. It doesn’t matter where he does that as long as he never forgets them.”

    Poignant words to ponder for people on all points of the political spectrum, especially on this Memorial Day, 2010.

    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.


  2. bellalu0

    There has never been a question about the patriotism of an American president until Obama. Never.

    So let’s get that straight.

    And that is the problem here. There are a great number of Americans who have questions about his patriotism.

    Of course, there was and is absolutely no question about the patrotism of George W. Bush.


    • Thomas Wicker

      I’m sorry – what? There’s never been a question about a president’s patriotism until Obama? I’m going to guess that you’re then too young to remember what was said about Clinton and his draft deferments, or about Jimmy Carter (who, unlike Reagan, was in the military).

      Heck, people questioned GW Bush’s patriotism and whether it was real or political make-believe (given that he was in the national guard and completely avoided having to do anything remotely close to fighting). There were even people who questioned whether GHWB was still trying to act in the patriotic interests of the country, or just for his friends in the oil industry (NOTE: I personally *don’t* question GHWB’s patriotism, though that doesn’t mean no one has; and, while GWB was many things, including incredibly incompetent, I do think he was patriotic, to the degree that it didn’t actually threaten him). And they *sure* have questioned the patriotism of various political candidates (generally Democrats), including ones who, like Max Cleland, were disabled serving our country during a time of war.

      Not sure where you get the idea that no president has ever had her/his patriotism questioned before. *Your* friends may not have, but that doesn’t mean that the charges never came up before.


      • bellalu0

        You’re right. I had forgotten about Jimmy Carter. 🙂

        At least Bill Clinton had enough political sense not to miss any visits to Arlington on Memorial Day. I will give him that.


  3. bellalu0

    But last year he asks: “What is this thing? this sense of duty? What tugs at a person until he or she says, “send me.”

    He would not know, and if he has to ask this question, it reveals all we need to know about his love or lack thereof of America.


  4. A+ for you, this is just what I was looking for.


  5. This is getting a little crowded!


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