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Bush Thanks New Generation for Standing Up to Terror

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2007 – A new generation of Americans has pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to defend the United States and freedom around the world, President Bush said during his weekly radio address yesterday.

Bush, who will spend Independence Day with members of the West Virginia Air National Guard, said the members of the U.S. armed forces are standing up to ideologies that seek to strip freedom from people.

“Around the world, our brave men and women in uniform are facing danger to protect their fellow citizens from harm,” he said. “In Afghanistan, our military and NATO forces are hunting down the Taliban and al Qaeda, and helping the Afghan people defend their young democracy. And in Iraq, American and Iraqi forces are standing with the nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace, and opposing ruthless enemies who want to bring down Iraq's democracy and turn that nation into a terrorist safe haven.”

Early indications of the surge into Baghdad are hopeful, Bush said. Operation Phantom Thunder, which began June 16 once all surge forces were in place, is engaging al Qaeda in Iraq and putting a lid on sectarian violence in the city.

“Just this week, our commanders reported the killing of two senior al Qaeda leaders north of Baghdad,” the president said. “Within Baghdad, our military reports that despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the capital are significantly down from what they were in January. We're also finding arms caches at more than three times the rate of a year ago.”

The overall strategy in Iraq is making progress, the president stressed. “It recognizes that our top priority must be to help the Iraqi government and its security forces protect their population -- especially in Baghdad,” he said. “And its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law and is an ally in the war on terror.”

The way ahead will be tough and will take time, the president said. Al Qaeda will continue to launch spectacular attacks, but even those attacks are down from January. The new strategy spreads coalition and Iraqi forces throughout the city, and the result is spreading security where Iraqi citizens feel safe enough to go to officials with information on the terrorists.

There will be more American casualties, Bush acknowldged. “We've lost good men and women in this fight. One of those lost was a Marine lance corporal named Luke Yepsen,” Bush said. “In the spring of 2005, Luke withdrew from his classes at Texas A&M to join the United States Marines. And in October 2006, he deployed to Iraq, where he manned a .50-caliber machine gun on a Humvee.

“Six months ago, Luke was killed by a sniper while on patrol in Anbar province. Luke's father describes his son's sacrifice this way: ‘Luke died bringing freedom to an oppressed people. My urgent request is … finish the mission. Bring freedom to the Iraqi people.’”

Bush said that on Independence Day, Americans remember the sacrifices of people like Luke Yepsen and all the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in this struggle.

“They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people,” he said. “They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice. We remember their loved ones in our prayers. And we give thanks for all those from every generation who have defended our nation and our freedoms.”

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