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First Lady Praises Troops, Families in Germany

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2005 – For U.S. troops fighting the war on terror, "heroism with a human touch is part of the mission," first lady Laura Bush told troops and their families at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, during a visit Feb. 22.

Bush traveled to Kaiserslautern, the largest American military community outside the United States, to thank troops and their families for their contributions to U.S. and world security.

Later in the day, she told students at Gen. H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden -- most of them children of U.S. servicemembers -- that they too are serving their country with courage and resiliency.

The first lady noted how significantly Ramstein's role has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, "Team Ramstein" directs air operations in a theater spanning three continents covering more than 20 million square miles in 93 countries. And besides supporting peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in the Balkans and northern and southern Africa, Bush said, the base's people now stand "on the front lines of a new war of the 21st century to confront terror and to defeat it."

She credited base personnel with supporting an air bridge from Europe to Asia that delivered more than 3,000 tons of humanitarian relief to northern Afghanistan, preventing mass starvation there. In addition, she said, they're opening critical airfields in Iraq and providing vital en-route support to deploying forces.

"As you go about your duties here every day, you're standing watch for freedom and you're protecting the rights and the liberties we all hold dear," she told the troops. "And you're bringing opportunity and security to nations that have known decades of cruel oppression."

But "the most amazing thing about our men and women in uniform," Bush said, "is that even as they fight to defeat terror, they still have an enormous capacity to extend the hand of friendship and compassion to people who desperately want a better life."

The faces of our men and women in uniform, she said, "are the faces of American compassion abroad."

"Each of you has a greater impact than you can ever imagine on people that you will only know for a brief time," the first lady said. "And all of you are delivering the greatest gift you will ever receive by sacrificing your own comfort, your own safety and your own lives so that others might know freedom."

Bush paid special tribute to military families, who she said "make countless sacrifices to help your loved ones fulfill their duty."

At Arnold High School, Bush said she's proud of the children of U.S. servicemembers. "You don't fly jets or wear uniforms, but as the children of our military, you serve too," she said. "The courage with which you do so is an inspiration to all of us."

The first lady told students they have something some young people don't: parents who provide "incredible role models" as they fight terror, advance freedom and change lives.

Their parents have given children in Afghanistan and Iraq the chance to grow up in peace, she told the students. "I know you are proud of your parents, just as every American is grateful for their service," she said.

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