Bush Calls American Volunteers ‘Citizens, Not Spectators’
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2008 President Bush today thanked the nearly 61 million volunteers who support America in myriad ways, including members of the U.S. armed forces and groups that channel support to them.
Emphasizing the importance of “answering the nation’s call,” Bush addressed an audience at the White House that comprised members from a wide swath of American volunteer programs.
“I want to thank all those who are here in the United States military. Thank you for wearing the uniform of the United States,” the president said, drawing applause from the crowd on the South Lawn.
But the desire to serve one’s country reaches far beyond the military, he said, lavishing praise on Americans who have opted “to be citizens, not spectators.” Many of such volunteers were spurred on by the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he added.
“In the midst of chaos and sorrow, Americans responded with characteristic courage and grace. It was a remarkable moment in our country,” he said of the nation’s response to the terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., that killed nearly 3,000 people.
“Rescue workers wrote their Social Security numbers on their arms and then rushed into buildings,” he said. “Citizens became members of ambulance teams and people from all across the country poured into New York City to help.”
The White House today issued a presidential statement proclaiming Sept. 11, 2008, as “Patriot Day.”
“On Patriot Day,” the statement reads, “we cherish the memory of the thousands of innocent victims lost, extend our thoughts and prayers to their families, and honor the heroic men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives so others might survive.”
In his remarks, Bush singled out the winner of the 2007 Spirit of Hope Award, which, according to the United States Navy Web site, recognizes “relentless service to the military and civilian community in the area.”
The president welcomed the recipient, Navy Chief Petty Officer Giovanni Balingit, and congratulated him for being the benefactor of “the military's way of honoring people who have given back to their communities.”
Bush also recognized the efforts of Kristen Holloway, who founded Operation Troop Appreciation, which sends DVDs, phone cards, musical instruments and sports gear to deployed troops. The group has sent care packages to more than 40,000 servicemembers to date, he said.
“A soldier who wrote back after getting one of the packages said, ‘My heart soars with pride to represent a country filled with such wonderful people as you,’” Bush told the audience. “Well, my heart soars with pride as well to be in the presence of those who are lifting up souls and helping mend hearts.”