May 5, 2005
Good afternoon. It's my pleasure to join you in today's "Ask the White House" web chat to discuss the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the many services we provide to the nations 25 million living veterans and their families. As Secretary of VA and a Vietnam combat veteran, I feel a personal connection with all the men and women who have worn the uniform. My just-completed visits with our troops in Iraq and some of those recovering at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany reaffirms the President's commitment, and that of his administration, to ensuring quality care and service to Americas veterans, and I took the opportunity to inform our troops of how we stand ready to serve them after they so bravely served America in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
I was also privileged to be part of President Bush's initiative to mark the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. V-E Day signaled the victory of America and our allies over the tyranny of fascism in Europe. With the President visiting our allies in Latvia, Russia, Georgia and the Netherlands and myself joining this week with our allies in the Czech Republic we are reminded of the successful battle against oppression 60 years ago and honor those fighting to extend liberty and democracy around the world in today's war on terror.
I look forward to your questions today.
Katie, from Fairfax, Virginia
Secretary Nicholson,What are some ways we as everyday Americans can
honor and help our veterans on a daily basis? I would like to help honor
the 60th anniversary of WWII, but now sure how to.
V-E Day marks an important moment in history the final defeat of Nazi fascism in Europe and the liberation of millions. While we sometimes think of observances in terms of great and small, it is often the seemingly small gestures that mean the most. Fly our flag for V-E Day. Find out about Memorial Day observances later this month where you live and attend them with your family. Explain to your children and grandchildren the significance of the observance and the events behind them, so future generations never take for granted the sacrifice and courage of those heroes that secured a legacy of freedom that can too easily taken for granted. And always, one of the simplest yet most important gestures, when you meet a veteran on the street, in the supermarket or anywhere else take a moment to say Thank you for your service. These gestures from the heart are among the most important we can offer those who served.
Kelley, from Scottsdale writes:
Why is the President going to Europe for this trip?
The Presidents trip to Europe his third this year will include visits to Latvia, The Netherlands, Russia and Georgia. The purpose is to celebrate the defeat of fascist tyranny in Europe, to recognize the shared sacrifice of millions in advancing democracy, and to underscore the common commitment of the United States and our European allies to the advancement of liberty, prosperity and tolerance in Europe and beyond. Just as our shared values brought about an end to the spread of Nazi fascism in Europe, so have our relationships today brought freedom and democracy to millions in Iraq and Afghanistan as we continue combating terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Katerina, from Normandy, France
Hello Mr. Jim Nicholson,How is the cemetary different in the Netherlands
than the one here in Normandy--
Although it is undeniable that those who rest eternally at Normandy were part of the greatest military undertaking in history D-Day and their courage under fire will forever inspire, it may be more fitting to highlight the similarity between these hallowed sites. There are many heroes laid to rest at Margraten Cemetery in The Netherlands. More than 8,000 brave Americans who persevered shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies are buried there. These sites serve to honor all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and let us reflect on and remember that sacrifice.
Jodie, from Des Moines
Is this event the President is celebrating to honor veterans similar to
D-Day? I guess I'm not sure of the difference and also wondering why he
is not going to France like they usually do to celebrate World War II.
D-Day was the moment that began to free the continent from the grip of Hitlers Fortress Europe, and well never forget the sacrifice of our troops and allies in the cause of liberty. The Presidents European trip this week and my own travels to Plzen in the Czech Republic pay tribute not only to the ultimate liberation of Europe that began with D-Day and ended with V-E Day, but also to the shared commitment to advancing democracy and rule of law in Europe and around the world.
Julie, from Lawrence, PA
I have no question. I would just like to thank the President for going
to the American Cemetery in Margraten on Sunday on behalf of those of us
who cannot. My uncle is buried there - Plot J, Row 1, Grave 17 - Walter
John Anderson. Thank You.
Thank you very much for sharing that, Julie. When we look upon those cemetery crosses, row after row, we realize that each one represents an American who not only made the ultimate sacrifice, but also left behind family and friends. It is people like you, Julie, and millions of other Americans, who serve to honor their memory and rekindle in all of us the spirit that keeps our nation free and brings liberty to the oppressed across the globe.
Kirk, from Milwaukee, WI
Mr. Nicholson: Will President Bush be visiting any World War II battle
sites during his trip to Europe?
It is right and proper to pay tribute to great events, but President Bush also wants to pay tribute to the men and women who bore the brunt of such terrible events. The President will visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, laying a wreath to honor the sacrifice of the Russian people. President Bush will pay similar respects at the Netherlands-American Cemetery in Margarten. But freedom and democracy are advanced by more than great battles, which is why the President is traveling to Georgia, where citizens stood together during the Rose Revolution in the cause of freedom and helped bring about democracy through non-violent means.
Thank you very much for your questions today. During my visit to the Czech Republic this week, I've been reminded of the more than three-and-a-half million living American veterans who fought in World War II, and our mission to help provide for them and all American veterans the services and benefits they earned through their sacrifice. It was at the height of World War II when the United States passed The G.I Bill of Rights which not only provided benefits for those who fought in the war but changed America forever. By providing benefits like college tuition, and home and business loan guarantees to veterans, the G.I Bill of rights recognized the service of our veterans and created a society in which every veteran who qualified could attend college, and one in which home ownership is higher than any nation on Earth. Our commitment to the veterans of today is as great as our commitment to those who won the victory on V-E Day.
Thank you again for joining me today.