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Rumsfeld Visits Wounded Troops, Stresses Importance of Iraq Mission

By Gene Harper
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited wounded service men, women and their families Nov. 3 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Television reporters in Texas and Washington state, interviewed the secretary upon his return to the Pentagon. "I just came back from Walter Reed," Rumsfeld told KHOU-TV in Houston, "where the troops from Iraq are arriving with bad wounds, serious wounds. And I met a number of the families that were there visiting their loved ones.

"I looked them in the eye and told them how important what their sons and daughters are doing, how much the American people appreciate it, and they're proud of what they're doing and they understand the importance of it."

The defense secretary also noted "our hearts and prayers have to go out to those families and loved ones of those people" killed in the Chinook helicopter crash Nov. 2.

"I say that any time you are losing wonderful young men and women in battle, it causes people to reflect and to be concerned," Rumsfeld said. "And what we have to do is recognize that that was a tough day when that helicopter was shot down.

He told KING in Washington state's Seattle-Tacoma television market that more tough days lie ahead. "It's a dangerous business," he said. "But what is taking place there is, on balance, the commanders feel that they have the advantage, that they can deal with those problems.

"We're increasing the number of Iraqi security forces every day, and they are taking on more and more responsibility. And the coalition provisional authority is working to transfer governance to the Iraqi people. That's the task. It's a tough one and we hope we can complete it successfully, and I believe we can," Rumsfeld said.

He also remarked to KHOU that the search for Saddam Hussein continues. "We've got a large number of people working that problem," Rumsfeld explained. "It's a very hard thing to do to find a single individual.

"Armies, navies and air forces were organized, trained and equipped to fight armies, navies and air forces. They weren't organized, trained and equipped to go out and find single individuals. It's a very difficult task. Look at the number of people who stay on the FBI list for five, 10, 15, 20 years sometimes.

"I think the American people have a very good center of gravity and they know that what's being done [in Iraq] is important and it needs to be done, and they support it," he said. "Our forces do have what they need to do this job and they're well equipped and they're well-trained and they're doing an outstanding job."

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