BEDFORD, Va. – President Bush, paying tribute to D-Day heroes who fought and died to liberate Europe, sought Wednesday to rally his generation of world leaders to “reaffirm the ties that bind our nations.”
Setting the stage for his upcoming trip to Europe, Bush focused on the benefits of America’s hard-won alliances and not the gnawing differences that will command attention next week.
“We have learned that when there is conflict in Europe, America is affected and cannot stand by,” the president said while dedicating the National D-Day Memorial. “We have learned as well in the years since the war that America wins when Europe is united and peaceful.”
The president’s six-day, five-nation trip will put him face-to-face with foreign leaders critical of his positions on missile defense, the environment, trade and capital punishment.
Bush mentioned none of this as he stood in the midst of the concrete and polished granite monument, its shallow pool and statues a reminder of Normandy’s bloody beaches.
On June 6, 1944, 156,000 soldiers from the United States and 11 other countries formed the largest armada in history and breached Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic Wall on the coast of France.
Bedford, a town of 3,400 people, lost 23 of the 35 soldiers it had sent overseas. It was the highest per-capita loss for any U.S. community.
“When I go to Europe next week, I will reaffirm the ties that bind our nations in a common destiny,” Bush said. “These are the ties of friendship and hard experience.”
He said shared experiences, both good and bad, should guide America and its allies “in leading a peaceful democratic revolution” across the globe.
In his first major international trip, Bush will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time; attend separate summits of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Belgium and the European Union in Sweden; and make symbolic stops in Spain and Poland.