President Pays Last Tributes to Victims of Saudi Bomb Blast
Jun. 30, 1996
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AP) _ A grim-faced President Clinton paid his last respects to the ``quiet American heros'' who were vicitims of last week's truck bomb attack in Saudi Arabia.
``We stand with you in your sorrow and outrage,'' Clinton declared somberly, addressing thousands in a cavernous flag-draped hanger.
Of the 19 Americans who died in the blast at a U.S. military complex in Dhahran, Clinton said: ``These men represented the best in America and they gave America their best.''
A lone bagpiper played a mournful tone, a military orchestra played ``Amazing Graze'' and four jets roared overhead in a ``missing man'' formation as Clinton presided over the first of two military memorial services.
The audience at the service, which was open to the public, included 11 wounded from the truck bomb attack, on stretchers, in wheelchairs and seated in the front row.
``Thank God for your presence here today,'' Clinton said to them.
This northwest Florida air base was home to 12 of the 19 Americans who died in the terrorist attack
``We will not rest in our efforts to capture and prosecute and punish those who committed this evil deed,'' Clinton said. ``But let us put aside our anger for a moment to remember and honor those who were lost.''
In slow cadence, Clinton gave the names and ranks of the dead servicemen.
``Let us now praise these quiet American heroes who gave their lives to service for America. May they rest in peace and may their names live on,'' he said, his voice strained with emotion.
Clinton arrived here early Sunday from Lyon, France, where he had made terrorism the central point of discussion at the annual economic summit.
While still in France, Clinton announced he was assigning retired Gen. Wayne Downing, a former chief of special operations forces of the Army, Navy and Air Force, to assess security at U.S. military bases throughout the Middle East in light of the truck bombing.
The president was accompanied on the flight from Paris by Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles.
Clinton met with family members at the base officers' club one hour before the beginning of a memorial service at a hangar on the base.
After the memorial services at Eglin, on Florida's Gulf Coast, Clinton was flying to Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach for a memorial service there. Six of the airmen killed were based at Patrick.
Forty-three airmen seriously wounded in the truck bombing attack last Tuesday arrived home at Eglin on Saturday. Some were expected to be on hand for today's memorial service.
Many of the wounded were heavily bandaged and had to be carried off the transport plane in wheelchairs and stretchers as family and troops on the base applauded.
The Eglin victims died just two days before their 90-day deployment was to have ended.
``The president wants to tell people struggling with this very personal loss that we all stand with them,'' press spokesman David Johnson told reporters on Air Force One in a preview of the president's remarks.
Johnson said the president believes that ``our generation's struggle is a struggle against the use of terror as an instrument of power.''
Referring to the bombing in Dhahran, Clinton told reporters Saturday that ``we will do everything in our power to discover who was responsible, to pursue them and to punish them.''
In his weekly radio address, the president hailed the achievements of the economic summit in adopting a 40-point plan recommended by a task force of exports to combat global terrorism and crime and directing that the work be intensified to come up with further recommendations.
``While the international perils of the 20th century _ fascism and communism _ have been defeated, new dangers are rising up to take their place,'' Clinton said. ``Unlike the previous great struggles of this century, we must confront these threats along a moving front _ from the Tokyo subway to the streets of London, from a bus in Paris to the World Trade Center in New York and the heartland in Oklahoma City and, of course, in Saudi Arabia.''