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First Lady Thanks Fort Hood Families

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2004 – First lady Laura Bush told military wives at Fort Hood, Texas, last week that she knows what it's like "having your life turned upside-down because the man you love wants to serve the country he loves."

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First lady Laura Bush visits with military wives at the Fort Hood Women's Conference in Fort Hood, Texas, March 5. Photo by Tina Hager, White House

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

During a March 5 visit to Fort Hood, Mrs. Bush thanked participants in the Fort Hood Women's Conference for their sacrifices in helping their spouses fulfill their dreamsdreams, she said, are protecting America's security.

The first lady acknowledged the long list of military units that hail from the Lone Star State and the important role they are playing in the role in terror.

"Over the last year, the world has witnessed the skill and the resolve of our military -- from Korea to Kosovo to the Middle East," Bush told the group. "We've seen their courage and their decency to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. From the beginning of the battle to this very hour, our troops have conducted themselves with honor and compassion. Our military men and women have helped to free 50 million people from the oppression of two brutal regimes. They've given an entire generation of children in Iraq and Afghanistan and America the chance to grow up in peace."

The first lady said America's soldiers are "defending freedom and restoring civilization and in the true American spirit, they are building hope one heart at a time."

She cited acts of kindness that are helping to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. She noted the work of Lt. Col. Steven Maglio, chaplain from the 4th Infantry Division's Division Artillery. With the help of families at Fort Hood, Mrs. Bush told the group, Maglio has distributed more than 180 boxes of winter coats and dresses to Iraqi children.

Similarly, she said, when soldiers from Task Force Ironhorse started renovating schools in Iraq, they realized that students didn't have basic supplies like pencils and notebooks. "So they called their family and friends back home in Killeen, who collected more than 4,000 pounds of supplies," the first lady said. "The soldiers distributed paper and calculators to children in 2,000 schools in Tikrit."

Mrs. Bush said these acts of compassion aren't simply part of the soldiers' mission. "It's part of their character," she said.

"We'll never forget their commitment to our country," the first lady said. "The peace and security of America depends upon their bravery and their willingness to serve. In doing so, our soldiers accept the dangers and the hardships that this cause requires."

Mrs. Bush told the group she and the president have visited with soldiers at bases all over the world, but fewer visits have inspired them more than those to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "These brave men and women were lying in hospital beds wounded and broken, yet they talked with enthusiasm about returning to their units," she said.

"I'll never forget their determination. Nor will we forget the men and women who have fallen in service to America. All of those who serve in our military deserve our utmost respect -- and so do those who serve well behind the front lines."

But she told the group that the families who stand behind their men and women in uniform serve an equally important calling.

The first lady acknowledged that the war on terror has imposed particular hardship on military families, many who are separated due to long deployments.

"You're dealing with added burdens at home, while praying for your husband, or your son, or your daughter far from home. Some of you are facing deployment yourselves, or the deployment of your loved ones, in the next few weeks," she told the group.

"Today, we celebrate the spirit of another strong group in the military -- the elite special forces who don't wear uniforms or fly Black Hawks or carry weapons: a band of sisters who support their loved ones, and each other, so that America remains a land of freedom," she said.

"Today, we celebrate you, the women in the United States military who are married to military officers or enlisted men, or who are military women, themselves," the first lady continued. "And we celebrate all that you do to make our military the strongest in the world."

Mrs. Bush thanked the group for the support they provide to America's fighting force. "Like our troops, your spirit is invincible," she said. "And I know that you'll continue to hold each other and your families and this country together as only an elite band of sisters can."

(Adapted from a White House news release.)

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Remarks by the First Lady to the Fort Hood Women's Conference, Fort Hood, Texas, March 5, 2004
Fort Hood, Texas
4th Infantry Division

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