President Reagan led a hushed crowd at a military review in a moment of silence for the 595 members of the armed services who died in the line of duty during his administration.
"They volunteered; they chose to serve; they gave their lives; they are our heroes," the president said at Thursday's ceremony in the gleaming new hangar that will be home to the new Air Force One being built to replace the aging presidential aircraft.Reagan led the tribute at a Pentagon-sponsored ceremony honoring him for his service as commander in chief. Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci presented the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service and medals from the armed services to the president.
During his remarks, Reagan complimented all of those in uniform.
"The gratitude of a nation comfortable and at peace properly goes, not to me, but rather to all of you," he said.
"Over the last eight years, the luster has been restored to the reputation of our fighting forces, after a time during which it was shamefully fashionable to deride and even condemn service such as yours," Reagan told the assembly.
"Those days will never come again," he said, to thunderous applause.
The Marine Band followed its traditional playing of the Marine Hymn and other armed service anthems with a rendition of the sentimental "Auld Lang Syne."
The unusual review was to have been held outdoors and include fly-overs of 17 aircraft from all the services plus the Coast Guard. It was forced inside by a chilly rain. The fly-overs were called off.