Military Thanks Reagan With Salute
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Defense Department staged an unusual ″farewell review″ for President Reagan today, and the military services were told to absorb the undisclosed cost of the pageant.
Responding to the military honors heaped on him in the 45-minute ceremony, Reagan praised the 595 men and women in the armed forces whom he said had died in defense of freedom since he became president in 1981.
″Over the last eight years, the lustre 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 applause that thundered inside a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base in nearby Maryland.
″But it is not just your fellow Americans who owe you a debt,″ the president said. ″Because we remained strong, because we acted when we believed we had to, in the last eight years, not one inch of ground on this earth fell under communist control.″
Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci presented the president with medals from the Defense Department and its four armed services plus the Coast Guard at the opening of the event.
Carlucci praised Reagan’s policies, which he said had contributed to the Soviet decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and the planned Vietnamese pull out of Cambodia and Cuban withdrawal from Angola.
″Your vision of a strong America assuming its rightful role on the world stage has produced lasting results. Our nation has moved from self-doubt to self-confidence,″ he said.
Much of the planned fanfare was canceled because of a steady rain that fell throughout the morning, and the ceremonies were held inside a 14-story-tall hangar designed to hold the two new Boeing 747 airliners being delivered later this year for presidential use.
First lady Nancy Reagan canceled plans to attend the salute because she has ″a touch of laryngitis,″ said a spokeswoman, Wendy Toler. ″She just isn’t feeling well and decided not to got out in the cold,″ Mrs. Toler said.
Inside the hanger were some of the fruits of Reagan’s trillion-dollar military buildup, including the the Air Force’s new B-1B bomber, as well as jet fighters, helicopters, an Army M-1A tank, and one of the E-4B aerial command post planes that is always standing by in case of war.
Carlucci’s predecessor, Caspar Weinberger, also was on hand and greeted Reagan as he sat down to watch a military review that bagan with a display by the Army’s Colonial Fife and Drum Corps dressed in Revolutionary War garb.
The ceremony included a Pentagon film lauding Reagan and his decisions to invade Grenada in 1983, bomb Libya in 1986 and escort Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf two years ago.
Adm. William Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Reagan ″we want to thank you and thank you sincerely for the legacy of strength that you are leaving to our next commander-in-chief.″
″You have made patriotism fashionable again and serving in the military attractive,″ said Crowe.
On a jocular note, Crowe cautioned Reagan that ″the weather will not be like this in California,″ referring to the drier climate in Los Angeles, where Reagan will live after Jan. 20.
Among the outdoor events canceled because of the rain were fly-overs of 17 military aircraft.
The Marine Band provided music and the Joint Service Honor Guard marched before the president. Every four-star general and admiral was invited to attend, along with about 1,400 VIPs and government officials.
Despite such elaborate preparations, the Pentagon said Wednesday it could not estimate the cost of the farewell ″at this time.″
″Funding for the salute will be absorbed by each of the services,″ it said. ″Each service also is responsible for funding (the attendance of) their respective general and flag officers.″
The Defense Department acknowledged it was not a normal practice to stage such a farewell for an outgoing president.
″It has not been done in recent history,″ the Pentagon said, but refusing to define ″recent history.″