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Bush honors fallen soldiers

Memorial Day in time of war: 'They defended our nation'


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President Bush lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, telling families of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan that their loved ones "served the cause of freedom."

"Because of their fierce courage, America is safer," Bush said.

"Two terror regimes are gone forever and more than 50 million souls now live in freedom."

Bush read from letters written by service members later killed in Iraq during his remarks at Arlington, the final resting place for more than a quarter-million members of the U.S. armed forces.

With each death, he said, "the world changed forever for the family and friends left behind." (Memorial Day takes on special meaning)

'Unfinished life'

"Always, there is the memory of another time and the feeling of sadness over an unfinished life," Bush said.

"Yet the completeness of a life is not measured in length only. It is measured in the deeds and commitments that give a life its purpose. And the commitment of these lives was clear to all.

"They defended our nation. They liberated the oppressed. They served the cause of peace," he said.

"And all Americans who have known the loss and sadness of war, whether recently or long ago, can know this -- the person they love and miss is honored and remembered by the United States of America."

Iraq casualties

About 140,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq more than a year after the March 2003 invasion that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. (Today in Iraq: Blast kills 4 near Baghdad's 'Green Zone')

More than 800 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the invasion, most of them in guerrilla attacks since Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1, 2003. (Special Report: U.S. deaths in Iraq)

Bush has called Iraq "the central front" in the war on terrorism.

His administration plans to hand over power to a new Iraqi government on June 30, but the United States is expected to maintain current troop levels there through the end of 2005. (Bush plans visit to Normandy)

Another 20,000 Americans are in Afghanistan, hunting remnants of the al Qaeda terrorist network behind the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Taliban militia that once allowed it to operate from that country.

More than 120 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan since U.S. military operations began there in October 2001. (Army finds Tillman probably killed by friendly fire)


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