To mark yesterday's 33rd observance of Armed Forces Day, President Reagan delivered a patriotic tribute to American sailors, soldiers, airmen, marines and their wives in his Saturday radio address to the nation.
Departing from his usual practice of using the five-minute midday radio speeches to defend his economic programs and attack his critics, Reagan offered unbounded praise for the American sailor laboring in a hot engine room in the Indian Ocean, the Marine squad leader in Okinawa and the Air Force MP guarding nuclear alert aircraft in the "Texas heat or the North Dakota winter."
Reagan called the men and women in the armed services "our final protection against those who wish us ill."
"There is another group which deserves special thanks--the wives of our servicemen," Reagan said, "wives who take care of the families and raise the children while their husbands are at sea or stationed far away." He did not mention husbands of female military personnel.
In an uncharacteristically busy Saturday for him, Reagan consulted with his Mideast envoy, Philip C. Habib, and former treasury secretary George P. Shultz and senior advisers after delivering the radio speech.
Spokesmen refused to describe the meetings in any detail although they said the purpose of the 30-minute meeting in the Oval Office with Habib was to review the tense situation in Lebanon. White House spokesman Mort Allin said afterward that the United States believes it is "certainly in the interests of all to maintain restraint and uphold the cease-fire."
Allin said Habib, who has been in Washington this week for consultations with State Department officials, planned to meet next week with Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.
Reagan's meeting with Shultz, Allin said, was to hear of Shultz' recent visits to the foreign heads of state with whom the president will meet at the Versailles economic summit next month.
Allin said Reagan, at the suggestion of Haig, had asked Shultz to hold private talks on international economic matters with the European heads of state, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki. Shultz, who was treasury secretary during the Nixon administration, now heads the Bechtel Group Inc., an international construction company.
Allin said that Shultz had "found the visit to be extremely worthwhile in providing the kind of close, candid exchange which characterizes the president's strong interest in achieving progress at the summit toward improved international economic cooperation."
In the Democratic response to Reagan's speech praising the military, Rep. Parren J. Mitchell of Maryland said Reagan's "overcommitment to military spending" was responsible for the country's economic troubles.
Saying that the "greatest defense is a strong domestic economy," Mitchell added: "All of us want a strong defense . . . but we do not want that at the cost of making the poor poorer, at the cost of frightening our senior citizens, at the cost of denying people safe and sanitary and decent housing."