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Bush Thanks Fort Polk Troops for Support in Terror War

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2004 – President Bush credited soldiers and their families at Fort Polk, La., today with "serving with skill and bravery in the war on terror" and leaving "no doubt that the enemy will be defeated and freedom will prevail."

The commander in chief thanked troops at this northwest Louisiana post that has trained and deployed more than 10,000 troops in the war on terror.

Among those deployed are more than 3,400 members of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and about 800 troops from the Warrior Brigade, made up of the 46th Engineer Battalion, the 83rd Chemical Battalion, the 115th Field Hospital and the 142nd Corps Support Battalion.

In addition, the Fort Polk-based Joint Readiness Training Center is training the Army's light infantry and special operations forces to prepare them to deploy for the war on terror.

Bush said service members in Iraq and Afghanistan "have given vital service in the war on terror," not only liberating two countries from repressive regimes, but also making America more secure.

"By the unselfish dedication of Americans in uniform, people in our own country and in lands far away can live in freedom and know the peace that freedom brings," he said.

Bush said members of the military "follow in a great tradition of achievement and courage," and "are living up to that tradition in hard missions and decisive victories."

He vowed not to give up the fight, even as insurgents try to shake the will of the coalition. He assured the soldiers that "what we have begun, we will finish."

"As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their powers to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends," Bush said.

"But they don't understand America," he continued. "They don't understand the nature of our troops. We will never be intimidated by a bunch of thugs and assassins."

The president acknowledged that the war on terror has not been without cost. Fort Polk has lost several soldiers in Iraq, including two who were killed Feb. 11 during a mounted patrol in Baghdad.

"Here in the Fort Polk community, you have sent brave men and women to confront this evil, and you have said farewell to some of your best," he said.

Bush said that just as America does not take freedom for granted, it does not take for granted the courage of those who face the danger and do the fighting.

"In this war, America depends on our military to meet dangers abroad and to keep our country safe. The American people appreciate your sacrifice," he said. "May God comfort the families of the lost. And may he keep this nation always grateful for their sacrifice."

But Bush told the troops the U.S. government owes them more than gratitude. "We must always make sure that America's soldiers are well equipped and well trained to fight this war on terror," he said, adding he intends to keep the military strong.

"America has been given great responsibilities," the president concluded. "We don't shirk from any challenge. We are rising to the call of history now and in the future. This great republic will lead the cause of freedom and peace."

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Text of President Bush's Remarks at Fort Polk, La., Feb. 17, 2004
Fort Polk, La.


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