Tough, Brave Troops Fight for Freedom
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2003 America's men and women in uniform are brave, tough and courageous, President Bush said today after visiting more than 70 wounded service members and their families at two military hospitals.
"It's an amazing thing when you see a person wounded, sitting there in a wheelchair or bound up in bandages and these different-looking metal things sticking out of them to hold them together," Bush said. "A young man looks you in the eye and says, 'I can't wait to get back to my unit. I hope I'm healed fast enough to get back to Iraq.'
"(These are) people who are willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves," he said. "And I feel lucky as an American to be a part of a country where citizens are willing to do that." The nation's commander in chief, accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, presented 16 soldiers Purple Heart medals during his stops at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and an earlier stop at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in northwest Washington. The medal is awarded to service members wounded in fighting with an enemy. The president and first lady also witnessed two wounded Iraq veterans swear in as U.S. citizens. One man from Mexico and the other from the Philippines had gone overseas and risked their lives for peace, security and freedom, the president noted.
"We've got an amazing country where the values we believe in are so powerful that people would be willing to risk their own life and become a citizen after being wounded," he said. "It's an amazing moment. I was really proud of them."
Bush remarked he and Laura were honored to have spoken with the wounded and their families. He said he told them that their service and sacrifice were worthwhile.
"Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies are threats to America, threats to our people because of what we believe in," he said.
"I also reminded them that their courageous sacrifice will help young Iraqis grow up in a free society; that out of the chaos that takes place there now, and after the fear of Saddam Hussein and his thugs, the Iraqi people will run their own country, make their own decisions, choose their own leaders and will become a country at peace with others in the neighborhood."
Bush said the coalition's priority is to free the Iraqi people of Saddam's regime and clear the country of weapons of mass destruction.
"I don't know the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein," he said. "I don't know if he's dead or alive. I do know he's no longer in power."
The president vowed to use every resource available to find any U.S. prisoners of war. "We pray that they are alive, because if they are, we'll find them," he said.
He urged Syria not to allow Iraqi Ba'ath Party members or Saddam's families or generals to find safe haven there. "We expect them to do everything they can to prevent people who should be held to account from escaping (into) their country. And if they are in their country, we expect the Syrian authorities to turn them over to the proper folks."
Asked when the war will be over, Bush said, it's up to Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander who has been running the campaign "on the front lines."
"The war will end when Tommy Franks says we've achieved our objective," the president said. "We gave Tommy the tools necessary to win," he said. "We agreed with his strategy, and he's running this war. And when Tommy says we've achieved our objective, that's when we've achieved our objective."