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Bush Pays Tribute to Fallen Troops, Thanks Veterans

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2007 – During a ceremony at the American Legion post in Waco, Texas, yesterday, President Bush told the families of four servicemembers who died in Iraq that “their sacrifice will not be in vain.

Bush called it a privilege to join veterans and the fallen servicemembers’ families to honor two soldiers and two Marines – all of whom were “sons of Texas” – who gave their lives in freedom's cause, he said.

“The young men we remember today did not live to be called veterans,” he said. “They died in a distant land fighting terror, spreading freedom, and protecting their fellow citizens from danger.”

Families of fallen servicemembers are filled with “immeasurable pride” with regards to their loved one’s valor and selfless devotion, said Bush, who sat next to Janie Shanks, grandmother of Marine Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry, who was 28 when he died in Iraq on March 8, 2006, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

In addition to Fry, the ceremony paid special tribute to Army Spcs. Javier Antonio Villanueva, of Bellmead, and Jeffrey Paul Shaffer, of Waco, and Marine Lance Cpl. Johnny Ray Strong, of Waco.

“Yet this pride cannot fill the hole in their loved ones' aching hearts, or relieve the burden of grief that will remain for a lifetime,” the president continued. “In their sorrow, these families need to know, and families all across the nation of the fallen need to know that your loved ones served a cause that is good, and just, and noble.

“And as their commander-in-chief,” he continued, “I make you this promise: their sacrifice will not be in vain.”

Bush said the country’s veterans, many of whom have lost comrades on the battlefield, feel a special bond with America’s fallen soldiers and their families. Moreover, when a beloved servicemember fell, many veterans felt determined to pick up the mantle, carry on the fight, and complete the mission, he said, adding that today’s generation of servicemembers are fulfilling such resolve in the war on terror.

“Since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, more than 2 million Americans have stepped forward to put on our nation's uniform, and during that same period, 1.5 million American troops have made the courageous decision to re-enlist and to stay in the fight,” he said. “These men and women saw the future the terrorists intend for our country, and they said with clear voices: ‘Not on my watch.’” 

Bush said extremists of the same ilk as perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks hope to carry out more deadly strikes in the future. He said America’s armed forces are fighting in foreign countries “to ensure we do not have to face them in our own land.”

“And by spreading the hope of liberty to nations that have not known it,” he added, “our troops are helping to defeat the ideology of the terrorists -- and secure a future of peace for generations to come.”

Bush thanked veterans in the audience for answering America’s call to duty. Their honorable and decent service humbled tyrants, liberated continents, freed millions from oppression, and transformed former enemies in Europe and Asia into allies.

“I thank you for your courage and your patriotism and your devotion to duty,” he said. “I thank you for standing up for the men and women of our armed forces, and I thank you for all you do to support the families they leave behind during this time of war.”

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