Bush Highlights DoD's 'America Supports You' Program
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2004 President Bush urged every American today "to find some way to thank our military and help out the military family down the street."
Speaking to Marines and their families during a visit to Camp Pendleton, Calif., the president called the holiday season of giving a time for the country to "stand with the men and women who stand up for America our military."
Bush urged people to go to the Defense Department's "America Supports You" Web site to learn about private efforts being undertaken nationwide to show support for the troops. The site showcases some of the many ways the country is expressing support and appreciation for the men and women of the armed forces.
"In the last four years, I have seen the world has seen the courage, the skill and the decency of the United States military. You are a great force for good in our world," Bush told the group of Marines and families of deployed Marines.
"The American people know it, and they are behind you," the president said. "Your service and sacrifice has touched the hearts of our people and inspired millions to show their gratitude."
Bush named examples of Americans' support for the troops, from 15-year-old Shauna Fleming from California who collected 1 million letters thanking military personnel, to a husband-wife team who regularly travel to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to greet wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vietnam vet Steve Cobb and his wife Tanya "welcome the troops home and offer whatever help they can provide," Bush said. Despite earning four Purple Hearts and a Silver Star in Vietnam, Cobb said "nobody but demonstrators" came to meet him and other returning veterans of the war, and vowed not to let it happen again. "I never wanted to see another generation of troops come home without being welcomed and appreciated," Bush quoted him as saying.
In Massachusetts, John Gonsalves, a contractor, heard about a soldier who had lost both legs in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq, then started the "Homes for our Troops" program. Bush said the nonprofit group builds and adapts homes for disabled veterans with special needs.
"John says, 'The war on terror is something the American people should all be a part of not just the people on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq,'" Bush told the group. "He says, 'We have a responsibility to do more for our veterans who are out there fighting every day and putting their lives on the line.'"
At Camp Pendleton, Bush said Karen Guenther, a nurse, saw the tremendous strain put on the families. "Many spend weeks, even months, away from home, standing by their loved ones recovering at a military hospital. They struggled with the costs of food, lodging, travel and lost income," the president said.
In response, Guenther and other Marine Corps spouses started the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to raise money for these struggling military families. In the six months since its founding, the fund has grown into a national organization that has helped more than 300 military families across the country more than $400,000 in grants, the president said.
"Had it not been for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, I would not have been able to pay my bills for the last three months or stay at my husband's bedside," Bush said, quoting the wife of a wounded Marine.
The president said these are a few examples of the tremendous outpouring for America's troops, and he encourages all Americans to express their support.
Bush said these examples represent "the true strength of our country" and the "hearts and souls" of communities who stand behind those who put themselves at risk to protect them.
"Across our country, Americans are coming together to surround our deployed forces and wounded warriors with love and support," the president said. "And we should be doing more."