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President Congratulates Navy Midshipmen for Gridiron Glory

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2007 – President Bush today congratulated the U.S. Naval Academy football team for its feats on the gridiron, and thanked members for their service to America.

Navy ended the season with a 9-3 record, capped off by a Meineke Car Care Bowl appearance against Boston College. The team led the nation in rushing yards, had the highest graduation rate, and for the fourth straight year, the Midshipmen beat Army and Air Force during its season and earned the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.

“It seems to me that this is becoming a spring tradition,” the president quipped during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.

“I appreciate the fact that your class is the first in school history to win four straight Commander in Chief trophies, the first to go 8 and 0 against Army and Air Force, and the first to play in four straight bowl games,” Bush told the Navy gridders. “That's a lot of firsts.”

Bush said that when the Midshipmen signed up for the Naval Academy, they signed up for more than playing football. “You signed up to become officers in the finest military the world has ever known,” he said.

But the finest military the world has ever known can’t exist without men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform, the president said.

“You volunteered after Sept. 11, 2001. That's a remarkable decision you have made,” Bush said. “I vowed after Sept. 11, 2001, that I would use the full power of our government to protect the American people from harm. And I meant what I said.”

Bush said that therefore, anyone who signed up after the Sept. 11 attacks knew what they were getting into.

“It's a remarkable country when people make such a noble decision to serve their country in a time of war,” he said. “And I'm proud to be the commander in chief of such decent, honorable, sacrificing men and women.”

Lessons that the Midshipmen have learned on the football field and at the Naval Academy, including the importance of teamwork and leadership and having strong personal character, will serve them well on the battlefield, the president said.

“You're going to put those qualities to the highest possible use, and that is to protect the American people and to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come,” he said. “The Navy and Marine Corps are on the front line of fighting and winning the war against the extremists (and) radicals who would do this country harm. Every day we're on the offense against an enemy.”

The president said he would rather defeat enemy combatants “over there” so that U.S. servicemembers do not have to face them here. “And the Marine Corps and the Navy are helping to lead that charge,” he said.

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