Bush, Gore Salute Military Veterans

Tuesday, May 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) — George W. Bush and Al Gore, mostly putting aside presidential campaign issues for a day, focused on patriotism during Memorial Day speeches to audiences composed largely of military veterans. Bush saluted veterans' sacrifices in Killeen, home to nearby Fort Hood and hub of an area with a high concentration of retired military personnel. Gore, meanwhile, recalled his own Army days in Vietnam during an appearance in the small town of Elizabeth, Pa., which lost six sons in the conflict. About 1,000 people braved temperatures that reached into the 90s to see Bush take the flag-filled stage at a downtown amphitheater in his first visit to the community as governor. Although he was introduced as a former Texas Air National Guard pilot, Bush did not refer to his stateside military service during the Vietnam years. He noted that the area of the state was home to many war heroes. ``Thank you for serving our country. You make us all proud to be Americans,'' the presumed Republican presidential nominee said. ``Whatever it is about Texas that produces these veterans, whatever it is about America, that thing is sacred. We must never lose it. We must always honor it.'' Gore, the likely Democratic nominee for president, asked for a show of hand from veterans of the Korean War, World War II and the Persian Gulf War during an appearance before a crowd of about 500 in Elizabeth, a town of 1,600 people in western Pennsylvania. Speaking directly to the veterans in his audience, the vice president said: ``You have that bond with those you served with. You feel the same feelings, thought the same things, you made the same sacrifices. Of course, some sacrificed a whole lot more than others, and today we particularly honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.'' A veteran stands at attention during a ceremony in Killeen. Gore chose to visit Allegheny County because, said Lou Lignelli, district director for Democratic Rep. Frank Mascara, it has one of the nation's highest concentrations of veterans. Gore, introduced by Army buddy Bob Delabar, spoke of his service in Vietnam, where he spent five months as an Army journalist that he has said included brushes with enemy fire. He said Monday that the duty didn't in any way match what was done by those being honored on Memorial Day. '`I was a reporter, and when I went into the field I carried a pencil and an M-16,'' he said. ``But anybody who has seen those that made the greatest sacrifices and have met their families ... hears the famous phrase that was delivered here in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Abraham Lincoln about 'the last full measure of devotion' — you hear that phrase in a different way.'' Bush, surrounded by flags, local dignitaries and a band from Fort Hood, paid homage to war heroes of the past while emphasizing that the nation should take steps to honor their commitment in the future. That can be done by maintaining a well-equipped, well-paid military, he said. The United States remains ``the bright signal in a dark night,'' the governor said. ``Let us resolve that our country will always be prepared to protect our interests. Let us resolve to keep faith with our past by being vigilant in our time,'' he said. Today, Bush planned to discuss military readiness at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Denver. Gore was traveling to Milwaukee to accept the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.