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Bush Thanks Troops and Families

By Gene Harper
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2004 – President Bush turned the nation's thoughts to servicemembers and their families during a pre-Thanksgiving White House event Nov. 17.

"During this holiday season," the president said, "we think especially of our men and women of the armed forces, many of whom are spending Thanksgiving far from home.

"America is proud of our military. We're proud of our military families," he said. "And we give them our thanks every day of the year."

Bush recalled his surprise 2003 Thanksgiving Day visit with troops serving in Iraq's Baghdad area. Under tight-lipped security and secrecy, the president flew to Iraq and dined with about 600 servicemembers and invited guests.

That day, he told the stunned audience they were on duty in Iraq "so that we don't have to face them in our own country."

"You're defeating Saddam's henchmen so that the people of Iraq can live in peace and freedom. By helping the Iraqi people become free, you're helping change a troubled and violent part of the world. By helping to build a peaceful and democratic country in the heart of the Middle East, you are defending the American people from danger, and we are grateful," Bush said at his 2003 visit.

At the White House this year, he noted that "those men and women, like all who wear our nation's uniform, have volunteered to serve," Bush said. "Through their courage and skill and sacrifice they are keeping our country safe and free."

The president reminded guests Nov. 17 that "we are a nation founded by men and women who deeply felt their dependence on God and always gave Him thanks and praise."

"As we prepare for Thanksgiving in 2004, we have much to be thankful for: our families, our friends, our beautiful country, and the freedom granted to each one of us by the Almighty."

The president hosted the annual White House event in honor of the national Thanksgiving turkey. In keeping with custom, Bush granted this year's bird, Biscuits, a presidential pardon, meaning that it was "not going to end up on the table." And in an unusual twist, the president included a second turkey, Gravy, in the pardon.

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