White House wreath placed in honor of Ronald Reagan’s birthday

Associated Press
February 9, 2007

Former President Ronald Reagan was remembered in a ceremony Tuesday on what he would have called another anniversary of his 39th birthday.

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Col. James B. Seaton III, commanding officer of the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, placed a wreath of white roses on behalf of President Bush at Reagan’s grave at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum.

Bush said in a proclamation that the wreath and military honors were sent “in tribute to his distinguished service to a grateful nation.”

Two World War II vintage military aircraft flew over the ceremony and Marines offered a 21-gun salute.

Reagan, who died on June 5, 2004, at 93 after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, was remembered by Meese as a Cold War warrior for his “peace-through-strength” mantra. Meese said Reagan led the United States out of a national malaise and ended the Cold War.

“He had integrity,” Meese said. “And he had perseverance…. We celebrate the legacy of Ronald Reagan.”

Seaton told the crowd of about 600 seated on a sunny lawn near the grave that Reagan was an inspiration to the Marine Corps during his presidency and that legacy lives on today as the military faces adversaries in Iraq.

“America didn’t become great because we took the easy road,” the colonel said.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, reported feeling a bit under the weather and reserving her energy for an evening library fundraiser honoring former President George H.W. Bush, said in a statement that her husband would have enjoyed the tributes.

“It’s hard to believe that Ronnie would have been 96 years old today,” Mrs. Reagan said. “I know he would have been thrilled to see the military band and color guard, the Naval Academy Glee Club and the flyover at his library today, and he would have been touched that so many of his old friends are coming to celebrate on his behalf.”

On Tuesday night, Mrs. Reagan planned to present former President Bush with the 2007 Ronald Reagan Freedom Award during a gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The award is given to those who “have contributed greatly to the cause of freedom worldwide.” Past recipients include Colin Powell, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jordan’s King Hussein, Lady Margaret Thatcher, the Rev. Billy Graham, Bob Hope and Rudolph Giuliani.

“George was not only my husband’s dedicated vice president, but he was also Ronnie’s loyal friend,” Mrs. Reagan said in a statement.

“Working closely with Ronald Reagan was one of the great joys of my life, and receiving this prestigious Reagan Freedom Award is something I will treasure always,” former President Bush said in a statement.