Bush Visits Wounded Troops, Issues Veterans Day Proclamation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 President Bush visited wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here Nov. 9 and issued a proclamation urging all Americans "to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans" during National Veterans Awareness Week, Nov. 7 to 13.
President Bush visits Army Spc. Kenneth Lukes, an Iowa
National Guard soldier who lost his arm in Afghanistan, during a Nov. 9 visit
to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Photo by Eric
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The president and first lady Laura Bush spent about two hours at Walter Reed, where they visited about 50 troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Following the visit, Bush told reporters he was "struck by the courage and bravery of our men and women who wear the uniform."
He called it "an honor to meet the troops who have been wounded." and said, "it's so uplifting to see their spirit, their drive to become rehabilitated, their love of their country, and their support of the mission."
Among the patients Bush visited was Army Spc. Kenneth Lukes of Fort Atkinson, Iowa. The Iowa National Guard soldier lost his left arm in Afghanistan earlier this month when his Humvee came under fire from a rocket-propelled grenade. He is among 46 troops being treated at the facility on an in-patient basis and 194 as out patients, Walter Reed officials said.
The president said he wanted to ensure during his visit that the wounded troops and their families "were getting treated with first-class care." Bush added that he's happy to learn the troops are satisfied with the care they're getting. "To a person, they were very strong in their support and praise for how this hospital is run," he said.
Bush praised the Walter Reed staff for providing the best care possible. "It's such a comforting sense for me to be able to tell a loved one, 'Your loved one will get the best care possible,'" he said.
The president paid his visit two days before Veterans Day, Nov. 11, a day to honor and recognize America's more than 25 million veterans. "Americans live in freedom because of our veterans' courage, dedication to duty and love of country," Bush wrote in his proclamation. "On Veterans Day, we honor these brave men and women who have served in our armed forces and defended our nation."
Bush said these veterans have risked their lives in military conflicts including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the war on terror. "They have fought for the security of our country and the peace of the world," he wrote. "They have defended our founding ideals, protected the innocent and liberated the oppressed from tyranny and terror."
And, like the patients he visited at Walter Reed, the president acknowledged that veterans "have known the hardships and the fears and the tragic losses of war." "Our veterans know that in the harshest hours of conflict, they serve just and honorable purposes," he said.
The president urged all Americans to observe Veterans Day and National Veterans Awareness Week through prayers and patriotic activities and programs. He urged them to look to the example of military veterans, who, after returning home from their duties, have become backbones of their communities and their nation. "Their commitment to service inspires us all," he said.