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Memorial Day: President Bush Lays Wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns

Aired May 28, 2001 - 10:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you live now to Arlington National Cemetery. This is the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

We expect any moment for President Bush to arrive, to be part of this ceremony.

As we wait for the president, let's bring in our Major Garrett, who is at the White House -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, it is a solemn, precise, and as you can tell, silent ceremony, the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. The president will lay that wreath, a tradition that every president participates in, every memorial day.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, President Bush has arrived and is being greeted by the host for today's observance, Major General James T. Jackson, commanding general of the United States Army military district of Washington, accompanied by the honorable Donald R. Rumsfeld, secretary of defense.

GARRETT: The president just announced, along with the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. The president will make his way along that carpeted pathway to the wreath, gently lay it at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. As I said, it is a tradition for every president on Memorial Day, a solemn tradition, one that no president wants to miss.

Also, the president will then go to the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, to deliver another traditional set of remarks on Memorial Day, that honoring all of the United States' war dead from all the conflicts, starting with the American Revolutionary War all the way up to the Persian Gulf War -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Major, any insight on what we expect to hear from the president in his remarks?

GARRETT: Generally, they will be remarks praising all sacrificed, not only those soldiers who gave up lives in defense of freedom and liberty -- that's a very traditional sentiment expressed by presidents on Memorial Day -- but also, as the president does at almost every opportunity when dealing with the subject of the military, he will thank those who are currently in uniform and underscore that he is, and his administration is, trying to do everything that it can to make sure they have the tools, the training, and all the resources they need to best defend the country -- Daryn.

KAGAN: I think I see Donald Rumsfeld there, to the right.

Interesting news note about what is now known as the Tomb of the Unknowns, Major -- this would be remains from soldiers from conflicts past that officials weren't able to identify. It was in the news within our recent years with one Vietnam vet whose remains were believed to be there, and indeed were left there, and I think have been identified, and then they will be moved?

GARRETT: They will be moved. That is my recollection, Daryn.

I can tell you at Arlington National Cemetery, for those members of the military who are tasked to guard this, it is among one of the most special duties anyone in the military can have. Members of the United States military walk in the very precise way guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers; if you go to Arlington National Cemetery, you will see them. They are in absolute, complete silence as they march back and forth in exactly the same number of steps in each direction. They switch off and change duty officers at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It is a elaborate procedure -- guarding 24 hours a day at the cemetery. It very special assignment for any member of the military to be asked to do it.

KAGAN: Also -- go ahead; did you have something else to add?

GARRETT: That was the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld coming there, along with wife, preparing for the ceremony.

KAGAN: As I understand it, looking into the future, there won't be any additional remains added to the Tomb of the Unknowns, because the men and women who serve now in the U.S. military leave a DNA file so that in the future, any remains that will be found would be able to be matched?

GARRETT: Yes, that's right. Forensic science has gotten us to the point were there really is no mystery any longer. Even in the most tragic circumstances where a death occurs in the military situation, the remains can be identified. So no more additional soldiers will be added to the Tomb on the Unknowns, but those who are there are memorialized each and every day, and especially on Memorial Day.

KAGAN: I see President Bush and Mrs. Bush.

GARRETT: It's the president and the first lady approaching from the rear. The honor guard will present the president with the wreath. He will then approach the Tomb of the Unknowns in a very slow and methodic ceremonial way. He will lay the wreath there as part of this Memorial Day celebration.

KAGAN: Then the president goes from here to Mesa, Arizona, just east of Phoenix?

GARRETT: That's correct. He will participate in yet another Memorial Day ceremony there. It is in a location that was a World War II training base for aviators. He will go there to deliver remarks -- his first trip to Arizona -- and then to go on to California, his first trip there as president.

KAGAN: A good topic for a little bit later on.

Let's go ahead and just listen in now to the ceremony.

(Military band plays "The Star-Spangled Banner")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Present.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Present.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Present.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forward.

(Soldier performs "Taps" on bugle)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forward.

KAGAN: Just completed the laying of the wreath ceremony, President Bush doing that for the first time as president of the United States. He will later head on to Mesa, Arizona, to take part further in Memorial Day activities.

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