Bush Pitches in With 'Operation USO Care Package' Volunteers
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
FORT BELVOIR, Va., Dec. 10, 2004 President Bush and first lady Laura Bush today helped United Service Organizations volunteers here pack items like snacks, phone calling cards and messages of support destined for holiday delivery to U.S. troops deployed overseas.
One of the biggest blessings American citizens have,
President Bush observed Dec. 10 at Fort Belvoir, Va., "is the United States
military and their families." The president and first lady Laura Bush spent
about an hour inside a Fort Belvoir, Va., warehouse Dec. 10 filling Operation
USO Care Packages alongside 90 civilian and military volunteers lined up across
both sides of two long tables. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The president and Mrs. Bush spent about an hour inside a warehouse at this base near Washington filling Operation USO Care Packages alongside 90 civilian and military volunteers lined up across both sides of two long tables.
Afterward, the commander in chief and honorary USO president remarked that he'd been pleased to participate in the organization's "assembly line of compassion."
Bush noted that his grandfather, Prescott S. Bush, was the USO's first president and chief executive officer. Therefore, it was "only fitting," Bush remarked, that he come down to the base to work on the USO's assembly line.
Bush recognized Mary Jo Myers, wife of Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, who was in attendance, and thanked the gathered USO volunteers for their efforts in supporting U.S. military members.
The president also greeted Fort Belvoir's top noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Andre Douglas, whom Bush had met during his 2003 surprise Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, Iraq.
"You can't ever thank the troops enough," Bush asserted. Operation USO Care Package "is one way of saying, 'America appreciates your service for freedom and peace and her security.'"
Troops should know USO packages are accompanied by "a lot of support and a lot of affection" from loved ones, Bush noted, as well as the best wishes sent from strangers.
Army Col. Evin Planto and his wife, Lynette, a USO volunteer, helped the Bushes and the others fill packages. Planto, currently on leave from duty in Baghdad, noted that deployed U.S. troops appreciate the USO packages.
Planto said he delivered USO packages to U.S. Marines just before they took the offensive against insurgents in Fallujah in early November. The Marines "really liked" the packages, he said. Planto noted he was slated to return to Iraq in two weeks or so.
Bush acknowledged the pain of separation experienced by many military families today, especially during the holidays. "We ask for God's blessings, not only on our troops who are overseas, but we ask for the Lord's blessings on our family members," the president said.
About 485,000 overseas troops have received Operation USO Care Packages, Bush noted, since the program was installed nationwide in September 2002.
Americans, the president pointed out, are living in historic times. "The world is changing," Bush said, "and as it changes as the world becomes more free, America becomes more secure, and the peace we all long for becomes more real."
It's customary to count one's blessings during the holiday season, the president noted. And one of the biggest blessings he said American citizens have "is the United States military and their families."
Bush asked participants to access the Defense Department's "America Supports You" Web site or the USA Freedom Corps' Web site "for ways to help the USO or any other organization that supports our United States military."