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Bush Praises 82nd Paratroopers, Families, Veterans at Fort Bragg

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2008 – President Bush saluted thousands of soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during his visit to Fort Bragg, N.C., today. The president cited the soldiers’ distinguished service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is the first time since 2006 that five brigades from your division have assembled together,” Bush remarked to troops after performing an in-ranks review of the division. Many of the paratroopers Bush addressed had recently completed 15-month deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We’ve asked a lot of you,” Bush told the soldiers, noting they’ve “achieved difficult objectives in a new kind of war.”

Bush also cited the 82nd’s soldiers for their skill and valor during performance of their overseas duty.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, welcome home,” Bush said.

The president also acknowledged the military families and veterans gathered to hear his address.

“I want to thank all the families of the paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division who are here today,” Bush said. “I welcome the families of the fallen heroes here today. [And] it’s such an honor to see the veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division and other veterans who have joined us today.”

Bush also saluted the division’s members who’d been injured while in harm’s way.

“I want to pay a special tribute to the wounded warriors from the 82nd Airborne. Thank you for your courage,” the president said.

The 82nd’s origins date back to World War I. The division’s legacy, Bush said, continued into World War II and lives on to the present day.

“When allied forces landed in Normandy, the paratroopers of the 82nd were among the first boots on the ground,” Bush pointed out. “When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, this division was among the first units to deploy to Operation Desert Shield.”

The division earned added laurels in the new century after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, Bush recalled.

“At the beginning of the new century, the men and women of the 82nd Airborne have once again stepped forward to advance the cause of liberty,” Bush said. “Since the attacks of 9/11, you have deployed on more missions than any other division in the United States Army.”

Members of the 82nd served in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, respectively. Today, division soldiers continue to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to defeat terrorists and to establish economic and political stability in those countries.

The 82nd’s troopers have “taken the battle to the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home,” Bush noted.

Over the past several years during multiple campaigns in Afghanistan, 82nd Division troops soundly drubbed Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents.

“Thanks to you, hundreds of insurgents have been captured in eastern Afghanistan,” Bush told gathered soldiers. “Many others have been killed. And, thanks to you, a nation where al-Qaida once plotted the attacks of 9/11 is now a democracy and an ally in the war against these extremists.”

Troops from 82nd Airborne Division led the way during the surge of U.S. forces into Iraq that flowed into Baghdad and its environs more than a year ago, Bush recalled.

“Instead of retreating, we sent in more troops, and the first troops in as part of that surge were the troops of the Falcon Brigade of the 82nd Airborne,” Bush said.

During the successful surge operations in Iraq, 82nd soldiers pursued and defeated the enemy, Bush recalled.

“You brought security to neighborhoods that had been in the grip of terror,” Bush told the troops. “And, across Iraq violence is down.” Civilian deaths, sectarian killings and assaults on U.S. forces in Iraq also have decreased thanks to the surge operations, Bush noted.

“You did the job we sent you to do. You have returned home on success, and all of America is proud of the 82nd Airborne,” Bush said.

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