Clinton Salutes Iwo Jima’s Heroes
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ President Clinton, saluting the heroes of the bloody battle at Iwo Jima, says the best way to honor them is to help build a better nation.
``We must work to create a nation worthy of the generation that saved it for our freedom,″ the president said Sunday in commemorating the battle’s 50th anniversary.
He made the remarks at the base of the Iwo Jima memorial, a 78-foot bronze statue depicting the famous photograph of U.S. soldiers hoisting a flag atop Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima. Several aging heroes of the World War II battle were in the crowd of 3,000.
One of them, Medal of Honor winner Col. William E. Barber, shared his memories of ``that eight-mile chunk of rock and volcanic ash.″ In a halting voice, he told dozens of fellow veterans: ``I am older now, as are you, but I can still see the colors of that February morning. The sky. The island. And sometimes I think I can still hear the noise of battle.″
In 36 days, U.S. casualties numbered 26,000, including 6,821 dead. For the Japanese, the toll was even more gruesome. Of the island’s 20,000 defenders, only 1,083 survived. Thousands of the dead are still missing, their bones hidden in the volcanic island’s intricate web of tunnels.
``To be worthy of that sacrifice, we must determine in this time to remain the strongest nation in the world so that our freedom is never again threatened,″ said Clinton, who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War.
The president, who was welcomed warmly by the crowd, joined four Iwo Jima veterans to place a wreath at the base of the memorial after his speech, which ended with this sentiment:
``For all Americans today _ for those who still defend our liberty in uniform, and those who fight for decency and civility in our towns and communities _ the men and women of Iwo Jima will forever stir our hearts, spur our conscience and summon us to action.
``With our eyes closed, we can all still see the flag rising atop the hill,″ Clinton said.