July 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Clinton At 2 Air Bases For Memorial Services


As he has with disturbing frequency lately, President Clinton led the nation in mourning once more Sunday, this time for the 19 American airmen killed Tuesday by a terrorist bomb in Saudi Arabia.

Twelve of those dead airmen came from the 33rd Fighter Wing based here, a unit whose members call themselves “Nomads.”

“Our Nomads have ceased their wandering. They have come home. May God rest their souls,” Clinton said quietly, his voice husky, at the end of an eight-minute speech to 5,000 people packed into a memorial service at Eglin’s King Hangar.

Later he delivered virtually the same mournful sermon during a similar service at Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach, Fla., the home base of five more airmen who perished in Saudi Arabia.

Such services have become sadly familiar. Clinton recently has led the nation in mourning the tragic deaths of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died in an April plane crash; of the 168 who died in Oklahoma City as Clinton marked the first anniversary of that home-grown terrorist attack April 19; of Adm. Jeremy “Mike” Boorda, the much-beloved chief of naval operations who committed suicide in May; and now, of 19 military men killed by terrorists abroad.

“On behalf of the American people, let me say to their families and loved ones, and to their friends in the Eglin community, we are grateful for their service. We stand with you in sorrow and in outrage.

“They were taken before their time, felled by the hands of hatred. … We will not rest in our efforts to capture, prosecute and punish those who committed this evil deed,” Clinton said.

That vow is what relatives of the 12 dead Eglin airmen wanted most to hear. Clinton met each of them privately; each stressed how important it is for America to track down the bombers and bring them to justice, White House aides said.

“It was a sad service, but this is our job,” said Staff Sgt. Cedric Anderson. “I feel deep remorse for the families, and I hope we find who’s responsible for this.”

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