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Bush Lauds Army's 'Screaming Eagles' in Visit to Kentucky Base

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2004 – Calling the present "a crucial hour in the history of freedom," President Bush today lauded the U.S. Army's "Screaming Eagles" for their service in Iraq.

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With Air Force One in the background, members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division prepare to greet President Bush, who visited Fort Campbell, Ky., March 18 to personally thank soldiers for their service in Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Kelly Patrice Pate

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The nation's commander in chief got a warm welcome as he visited troops from the 101st Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group, and other units at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Many of the soldiers present today have only recently returned from duty in Iraq, where they spent the past year. Fort Campbell deployed more than 5,000 vehicles, 254 aircraft, and 18,000 soldiers to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bush noted.

Troops from the 101st liberated the Iraqi cities of Najaf, Karbala and Hillah, secured southern Baghdad, and participated in the raid that killed Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay.

"Soldiers of Fort Campbell, every one of you is making a difference. You've seen hard duty, and the defense of freedom is always worth it," Bush said. "Because of your service, because of your bravery, because of your dedication the world is better off, and the American people are more secure."

He noted that in one year's time since Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off on March 19, 2003, "Saddam Hussein has gone from a palace to a bunker to a spider hole to a jail."

The president spoke warmly of the progress that has been made in Iraqi society in the past year. "Because America and our allies acted, all the world is now seeing democracy rising in the heart of the Middle East," Bush said.

"By your decency and compassion, you are helping the Iraqi people to reclaim their country," Bush told the soldiers and their families. "Because you care, you're helping the Iraqis live as free people."

He also spoke of recent terrorist activity, including the March 17 attack on a civilian hotel in Baghdad. "That attack showed once again the cruelty of our enemies," he said. "The terrorists and Baathist holdouts know that a free and stable Iraq will be a major defeat to the cause of hatred and terror."

The terrorists are "testing our will," Bush said. "And day by day they are learning our will is firm."

Bush lauded the military families who held down the home front while the soldiers were at war. "Each one of you serves our nation by giving your love and support to our soldiers," he said. "Here, at one of America's vital military bases, you've built a strong community of people who care about each other and share the challenges and rewards of Army life.

"America's grateful," Bush said. "America is proud of our military families."

Bush pledged to ensure the troops have "every resource and every tool you need to fight and win the war on terror." He said he's proud to have enacted three military pay raises and increased support for base housing and schools. "When your government gives you a mission, we must accept serious responsibility of our own," he said.

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