President Praises Military Efforts in Terror War, Urges Resolve
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2006 President Bush praised the sacrifices U.S. servicemembers are making to protect the country and urged the American people to stay the course in the war on terror during his annual State of the Union address tonight at the U.S. Capitol.
Bush heralded democratic advances in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S. troops are helping bring newfound freedoms to millions of people who once lived in fear and repression and forming solid partnerships as they fight terrorism. These successes have come through the skill and spirit of the U.S. military, he said.
"Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices, and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear," the president said. "They know what it is like to fight house to house in a maze of streets, to wear heavy gear in the desert heat, to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb. And those who know the costs also know the stakes."
Among them was Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay, who was killed Dec. 1 while fighting the enemy in Fallujah, Iraq. As Clay's widow and parents looked on, Bush read to the assembly a letter the fallen Marine left to his family but that the president said could just as well be addressed to every American.
"I know what honor is," Clay wrote. "It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to. Never falter! Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting."
"Our nation is grateful to the fallen, who live in the memory of our country," Bush said to thunderous applause. "We are grateful to all who volunteer to wear our nation's uniform. And as we honor our brave troops, let us never forget the sacrifices of America's military families."
While honoring these sacrifices, Bush emphasized, the United States can't lose its resolve and cut its mission short in Iraq. Referring to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his henchman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Bush said abandoning Iraq to the terrorists would be the wrong thing to do. "A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little," he said.
Bush urged members of Congress to put aside their past disagreements and debate and support the country's only option. "We must keep our word, defeat our enemies and stand behind the American military in its vital mission," he said.
"The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home," the president said. But he emphasized that progress on the ground and recommendations of commanders there, not politicians, must drive decisions about troop reductions.
"Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy - a war that will be fought by presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress," Bush said. "And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us and lead this world toward freedom."
During the address, five servicemembers, representing all the military services, were honored to sit with first lady Laura Bush overlooking the gallery floor during the address. They were Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana, Army Sgt. Wasim Khan and Marine Corps Sgt. Nicholas Graff, all servicemembers wounded in Iraq; Navy Cmdr. Kimberly Evans, the first female Navy officer to command a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan; and Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Sayers, who rescued 167 Hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.