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Reagan Proclaims Memorial Day As National Day Of Mourning With AM-Gulf Policies, Bjt

May 23, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan proclaimed this Memorial Day as a national day of mourning for the 37 sailors slain aboard the USS Stark and asked Americans on Saturday to pray for the victims and their families.

″Without Americans like them, there would be no land of the free and no home of the brave; because of Americans like them, the lamp of liberty burns on undimmed, unvanquished, and unquenchable,″ Reagan said of the sailors killed aboard the guided-missile frigate.

″No words of ours can pay them the full tribute that is their due: their service, sacrifice, and love of country crown their memory on this day of grief,″ Reagan said in his proclamation. ″This year, our Memorial Day remembrance is tinged with fresh sorrow as we honor and mourn the brave men taken from us a short week ago.″

In his weekly radio address, the president also dwelt on the violent tragedy that befell the crew of the U.S. ship as it patrolled the Persian Gulf. On Friday, Reagan and his wife Nancy flew to Florida to attend the memorial service for the sailors, and spent an hour comforting their grieving families and friends.

″Keep in mind the brave sailors of the USS Stark. Do me a favor won’t you?″ Reagan asked. ″Whisper a prayer for them, and for their families.″

The servicemen died, Reagan asserted, fulfilling a mission ″that was a vital one for us as a free people.″ The president said the United States has patrolled the Gulf since 1949 because ″in the hands of a hostile power (it) would be a chokepoint of freedom.″

″That’s why owe the crew of the USS Stark and their brave families such a deep debt of gratitude, it’s a debt that should be on all of our minds this Memorial Day weekend, as we recall those who have fallen in our nation’s service,″ Reagan said.

The president also used his radio address to denounce Congress for its ″old ways,″ accusing it of overspending and ignoring the mandate of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget deficit reduction legislation.

He tied his call for a balanced budget to the Memorial Day remembrance, saying, ″As we think of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, we should not forget to also reflect on our own duties ... Certainly wasting our national wealth and burdening future generations with mountains of debt does not keep faith with those who have struggled and sacrificed to begin a new form of government, here, on our shores.″

In the Democratic response, Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., also paid respects to the men of the USS Stark and to the 2 million men and women in the armed services who ″face (risks) every day serving their country, trying to keep peace in this troubled world.″

Spratt also defended the House-passed defense authorization bill, saying the $290 billion it provides ″renews our country’s commitment to a strong defense.″

Reagan has sharply criticized the measure, which is bogged down in the Senate, for the limitations it puts on his arms control policies and cuts in such programs as the space-based Strategic Defense Initiative and chemical weapons.

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