President Bush, dedicating a new Marine museum, expressed optimism on Friday that the U.S. will succeed in its drive to sow democracy in the Middle East.
"Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima" in World War II, Bush said.
Bush spoke at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located on a 135-acre site next to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico. The dedication of the museum began with the introduction of Marine Corps brass and a 21-gun salute to Bush, who walked from the building as the band played "Hail to the Chief." An estimated 10,000 people from various armed services watched as four F-18s screeched across the sky.
The design of the museum's building, which slants rightward toward the clouds, reflects the highest peak on the island of Iwo Jima where, in the closing months of World War II, the image of five Marines and one sailor raising the American flag was immortalized in a Pulitzer Prize-winning picture taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
The museum is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which will include a memorial park, parade grounds, artifact restoration facilities and an onsite hotel and conference center. The museum, which opens to the public Monday, will focus on the Marines' contributions throughout the nation's history, immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of Marines in action.
Bush said visitors will experience life from a Marine's perspective _ what it's like to make an amphibious landing under fire, deploy from a helicopter in Vietnam or endure a grueling boot camp.
"No thanks," Bush joked.