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America Mourns Its Dead

The ceremony this morning at Andrews Air Force Base seems all too familiar - 12 Americans brought home from a bloody, senseless death abroad. Victims of terrorism, recalled in sober tones. We have seen such scenes too many times before.

And yet, for all that familiarity, the emotions are still raw. The sorrow is not dulled. The anger, the outrage are not quieted. The bewilderment is as powerful as ever.

Who committed this act of terror, and why? We are still trying to find answers. But we already know much about the Americans who died.

It has been this reporter's experience that, when Americans take foreign service jobs, travel far from home, and take up residence in other countries, they do so because they love this country - the United States of America - and what it represents in the world.

They take these jobs because they want to help America. They are taking a personal responsibility for America and its role on the world stage. They take the "service" in "foreign service" very seriously.

So too with the men and women who were honored this morning. They came to Africa to protect and to heal, to make peace and defend honor, to show America's best face to the world. "If it is to be, it's up to me" was their motto.

You may not have realized that this was something they were doing for you - for every American. You may want to consider that now.

This morning we marked the homecoming of 12 Americans - our neighbors - who traveled far and who returned to us today only physically. Tthe greater part of them is gone.

We can guess that they would prefer to be remembered more for their service than for their scrifice, more for the lives they led than for the death they were dealt.

And so we will hold to the memory of who they were, and what they accomplished, the dreams they had of serving others. These memories are stronger than any bomb blast. They live. They endure. No terrorist can shake them from our grasp.

The United States of America has already learned that lesson - that memory is stronger than death, that hope is greater than fear - in the face of other terrorist attacks. This morning's ceremony is doubtless not the last time that the lesson will be brought home again. We would prefer never to have been taught it.

But it is by holding onto that lesson - that we guarantee that this, and everyother terrorist attack, must fail.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved

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