Clinton Salutes Veterans, Dedicates Memorial Site : Ceremony: He hails those who served in uniform and the millions of women who aided the war effort.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

On a gray day of wind and rain, President Clinton hailed the veterans of the nation’s wars on Saturday and dedicated the site of the first national memorial for those who fought in World War II.

“This memorial will be a permanent reminder of just how much we Americans can do when we work together instead of fighting among ourselves,” Clinton said on a day dominated both by solemn ceremony and by his budget battle with the Republican-led Congress.

At midmorning, Clinton saluted all veterans in an address at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. His arrival and departure were marked with 21-gun salutes.

“For what we owe them, let us never be forgetful,” Clinton said, speaking on what he called “this hillside of honor and respect.”


Later, the presidential motorcade rolled down rain-slicked streets from the White House to a muddy field and a sea of umbrellas on the Washington Mall, where the World War II Memorial will be built over the next several years.

Fifty members of the armed forces, each holding a state flag, nearly ringed the site, which is bracketed by monuments to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

There, veterans of a war that engulfed the world scattered soil gathered from 16 cemeteries in Europe and Hawaii where thousands of casualties are buried.

Clinton spoke of the debt the nation owes not just veterans who served in uniform but also the 16 million women who operated the factories and contributed to the war effort.

He said it will be only a small down payment on the debt the nation owes the World War II generation “to build this monument as magnificently as we can.”

In other Veterans Day observances across the nation:

* Thousands of veterans, many in uniform, marched up New York City’s 5th Avenue in what was billed as the Nation’s Parade, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

At least 33,000 veterans and troops took part in the parade on an overcast but mild day.

F-16 jet fighters roared overhead, and a line of military vehicles ranging from a World War II-era Sherman tank to Army jeeps traveled the route.

* Members of the Angel Fire, N.M., Women’s Project saw sculptor Glenna Goodacre dedicate a replica of her Vietnam Women’s Memorial at a ceremony devoted to honoring women who have served in the military.

* More than 2,500 veterans, their families and visitors braved strong winds and rain in Charleston, W. Va., at the dedication of a state veterans memorial. Red, white and blue balloons, representing each of the 10,197 fallen West Virginia veterans, drifted in the gray sky as bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”