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Capitol Sees 2 Observances

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RALEIGH — The weather smiled on participants and observers at memorial services staged on the capitol grounds this noon.

At noon, a wreath laying honored the military from all U.S. conflicts. An honor guard from Cary High School took part in the ceremonies.

Shortly thereafter, Vietnam veterans held a ceremony to honor the memory of their comrades who lost their lives and those who are still officially missing.

Theodis Strickland, of Bailey, is a World War II veteran. He drove up from Nash County for the ceremonies and said not a speck of ground at the capitol should have been visible -- that people should have packed the ceremony.

Strickland says he thinks too many people view the day as a holiday to spend at the beach, rather than acknowledging the sacrifices made by the military.

Meanwhile, President Clinton was at Arlington National Cemetery, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns where 11 days ago the remains of a Vietnam veteran were exhumed for possible identification.

"It was the right course of action because science has given us a chance to restore his name and bring comfort to his family - and we had to seize it," Clinton said at a memorial service in Arlington National Cemetery's amphitheater.

He also celebrated the negotiated repatriation of two sets of remains believed to be those of unidentified U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korean officials handed the soldiers' remains over to the American-led U.N. Command today.

"They are coming home this Memorial Day," Clinton said to applause.

The 40-minute ceremony included a moving performance of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by the United States Army Chorus and Master Sergeant James L. Hosay.

In his remarks, Clinton all but acknowledged that Memorial Day has come to be more commonly celebrated around the nation as a three-day weekend marking the start of summer.

"As spring turns to summer, Americans around the nation take this day to enjoy friends and families. But we come again to Arlington to remember how much was given so we could enjoy this day and every day in freedom," the president said.

America's warriors also helped spread freedom beyond America's shores, he added.

"Thanks to these heroes, our nation over 220 years has grown into something truly extraordinary. We have so much to be grateful for today -- peace, prosperity, the spreading power of our original idea. For the first time in history a majority of the people on this earth live under government of their own choosing," he said.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is dedicated to the nation's unidentified war dead, with separate crypts for unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam aligned before a sarcophagus containing remains of a World War I unknown. On May 14, the tomb's granite slabs were unsealed to exhume the Vietnam War remains for possible DNA identification.


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