President Rings in New Year Visiting Wounded Troops
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 2006 President Bush visited Brooke Army Medical Center, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, today to wish wounded troops undergoing treatment there a happy new year, thank them for their sacrifice, and present nine Purple Heart Medals.
"I can't think of a better way to start 2006 than here at this fantastic hospital," Bush told reporters during a stop at the San Antonio post, where he met with 51 soldiers and Marines, most of them injured in Iraq.
"This hospital is full of healers and compassionate people who care deeply about our men and women in uniform," the president said. It's also filled with what he called "courageous" young servicemembers who, along with their loved ones, are making great sacrifices as they serve their country.
"I am just so overwhelmed by the great strength of character," Bush said. "War is horrible. There are horrible consequences to war, (and) that's what you see in this building."
The president said he was equally struck by the "divine inspiration" he witnessed at work at the hospital. "I think we see God's work here every day," he said.
Bush said he was inspired by medical staffs that work around the clock to help ease suffering and save lives, family members who have kept their faith through adversity, and wounded troops who told him they'd return to Iraq in a minute if they could.
"Many of these troops understand that by defeating the enemy there, we don't have to face them here," he said. They also understand that by helping promote democracy in the Middle East, they are laying the foundation for peace in the region, he said.
Bush thanked the hospital staff and the wounded troops and their family members for bringing "great credit to our country" and promised to continue work in 2006 to promote and lay the foundation for peace around the world. He promised to ensure that the sacrifices of those wounded or killed in the war on terror wouldn't be in vain.
The president vowed to continue using every power in his legal authority to protect the American people from terrorists. "They attacked us before, and they will attack us again if they can," he said. "We are at war with a bunch of cold-blooded killers who will kill at a moment's notice, and I have a responsibility to act within the law, which is what I am doing."
At the hospital, Bush met with patients and their families at the Amputee Care Center that opened in January 2005, Phil Reidinger, the post's public affairs officer, told American Forces Press Service.
From there, he visited the Burn Center, which has treated 388 servicemembers wounded in the war on terror, and intensive care unit. The president presented Purple Heart Medals to nine soldiers: Sgt. 1st Class Larry Campbell, Staff Sgts. Christopher Edwards and Ellis Majetich, Sgt. Lee Tom Jones, Cpl. Andrew Powers, and Spcs. Chad Danusis, David Dyer, Robert Leonard and Jean Pijeau, Reidinger said.
The visit was the president's first to Brooke Army Medical Center, which offers the Defense Department's only burn center and one of just two amputee centers and has treated more than 2,300 wounded troops since October 2001. Of those troops, 1,600 were wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom; 67 in Operational Northern Delay, in which military forces parachuted into Iraq; and 676 in Operation Enduring Freedom, Reidinger said.
The visit topped off a full slate of holiday activities at the Brooke center, he said.
The Jewish Federation of San Antonio hosted Christmas dinner on Dec. 25 for 120 wounded soldiers and Marines and their families at the base's Soldier and Family Assistance Center. The San Antonio community donated gifts for the troops.
On Dec. 22, two members of the New Orleans Saints football franchise spent more than two hours at the center, signing autographs and posing for photos with wounded troops and their families, Reidinger said.