President George W. Bush, paying tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., said the sacrifices made by the military and their families have protected the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
"No group has ever done more to defend liberty than the men and women of the United States armed forces," Bush said in his weekly radio address. They have "secured a way of life for our entire country."
Memorial Day, this year on May 26, is a national holiday commemorating war dead. This will be the seventh straight Memorial Day with the U.S. at war, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In the Iraq War, 4,071 U.S. military personnel and 11 civilian Defense Department workers have died, according to yesterday's tally from the Pentagon. In military operations in and around Afghanistan, 432 military personnel have died.
Among the latest deaths reported by the Pentagon were those of Navy Lieutenant Jeffrey Ammon, 37, of Orem, Utah, and Army Private Branden Haunert, 21, of Cincinnati. Ammon died this week from injuries sustained in a bomb attack in Afghanistan while he was serving in a provincial reconstruction team, according to a Pentagon statement.
Haunert died in Tikrit, Iraq, on May 18 after being wounded by an improvised bomb.
Dispute on Spending
Democrats lashed out at Bush yesterday over his threat to veto a measure that links $47 billion in domestic spending to more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
John Boccieri, a state senator from Ohio who is running for Congress, said in the Democrats' weekly radio address that Bush's veto would deny veterans expanded educational benefits. He also said Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was wrong to skip voting on the measure.
Bush will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous U.S. military burial ground. The cemetery faces downtown Washington from a hillside site in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River.
About 30,000 U.S. service members have been wounded in the Iraq War. Almost 2,000 have been wounded in and near Afghanistan.