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WASHINGTON (AP) -- On a day when two U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, President Bush used a Columbus Day speech Monday to pay tribute to soldiers who have died in that war and others.
"That's what's happening today: People are willing to sacrifice for the country they love," Bush said at the White House. "They remember the lessons of September 11th, 2001, and so do I."
"It's something we should never forget, especially the lessons of those who sacrificed, for lives lost," Bush said.
The president singled out Italian Americans who have sacrificed in battle: John Basilone, killed in 1945 during the invasion of Iwo Jima, and Rocky Versace, a Green Beret who defied his Viet Cong captors and was executed in 1965. And he cited New York City Fire Chief Peter Ganci, who died at the World Trade Center.
"He ordered all out of the area. He refused to go, and his statement was: 'I'm not leaving my men,"' Bush said. "One brave guy who embodies the best of the sons and daughters of Italy."
One soldier was killed and two wounded Monday when attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their patrol in Tikrit. A second soldier was killed and another wounded when their vehicle struck a land mine in Beiji, 120 miles north of Baghdad.
The two deaths brought to 96 the number of U.S. soldiers known to have been killed in hostile action since May 1, when Bush declared major combat over.
Bush rarely speaks publicly about the deaths of American service members in Iraq, beyond saying that the nation mourns the losses.
Monday, he did not make reference to any specific casualties. Rather, he used the Columbus Day address to praise Italian Americans for their contributions, especially in wartime.
"You can take deep special pride in the deep traditions of service to this country," Bush told an invited audience that included several members of his administration who trace their ancestry back to Italy.
At his side was Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi. In the audience were Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; and National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)