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President Congratulates Navy Football Players

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2006 – President Bush today congratulated the U.S. Naval Academy football team for its feats on the gridiron, and predicted the young men's real heroics will take place on a field of a different sort -- a battlefield.

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President Bush poses with the Naval Academy football team during the presentation of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy at the White House April 25. He said service academy graduates are serving the U. S. on the front lines of the war on terror. Photo by Kimberlee Hewitt

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

"The greatest achievement for the midshipmen will be when they join their counterparts from (the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, N.Y.) and (the U.S. Air Force Academy, at Colorado Springs, Colo.) to help us win the war on terror," Bush said in presenting the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the midshipmen during a Rose Garden ceremony.

Navy ended the season with an 8-4 record, capped off by a 51-30 win over Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego Dec. 22. The team beat Army and Air Force during its season to win the trophy for the third straight year.

Bush today said lessons the players learn on the football field will help prepare them for their duty in the war on terrorism. "Every player on this team works hard to win on Saturday afternoons," he said. "But like the rest of your midshipmen, your top priority is preparing to defend this nation."

The president lauded the young men for their willingness to serve. "When it came time to serve our country, they said, 'I volunteer to serve. I recognize there's something more important in life than serving myself. I want to serve my nation,'" he said. "And for that the American people are really grateful."

He said service academy graduates are serving the U. S. on the front lines of the war on terror, specifically mentioning Marine First Lt. Brian Stann, a former Navy linebacker who was awarded the Silver Star in March for his actions in Iraq.

"Today, there are sailors and Marines who are leading vital missions in Afghanistan and in Iraq and around the world," Bush said. "Graduates from the Naval Academy patrol the world's oceans to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of the terrorists and are maintaining America's command of the seas.

"You protect our nation and, equally importantly, you're laying the foundation of peace for a generation of Americans to come," he continued. "And so we're here to, first and foremost, honor a really fine football team and present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.

"But as well," he said, "we pay tribute to men and women who wear the uniform of the United States and say, 'Thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts for protecting us.'"

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