President Bush thanks troops at Elmendorf

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Francesca Popp
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs

President George Bush stopped here on the first leg of his week-long Asia tour and thanked servicemembers and civilians for volunteering to serve and continuing the fight the global war on terrorism.

It was the president’s second visit here. He spoke for nearly 45 minutes with more than 4,500 servicemembers and civilian workers from all the services.

Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Ferguson was one of the nearly 3,500 military members at the event. The Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment troop from Fort Richardson, Alaska, was excited to see the president in person for the first time.

“It’s an honor to hear him speak,” Sergeant Ferguson said. “It’s great for him to come here and show his support of the troops.”

President Bush said he fondly remembered Alaska, where he lived shortly in 1974, making him the only president to have lived there. He said he was “proud” to stand among the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in Alaska.

“First thing I want to tell you is the American people are grateful for your service and so is the commander in chief,” he said. “Each of you is a volunteer. You stepped forward and took an oath to defend America.

“Every day you put on your uniforms, you reflect our nation’s highest values and our greatest hopes,” the president said. “Through your hard work and dedication to duty, your sacrifices are building a better and safer world for all Americans.

“We will settle for nothing less than victory,” he said.

President Bush said servicemembers here defended the last frontier against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, giving the nation “top cover.” Servicemembers continue to “complete the mission and lay the foundation of peace for generations to come” in the 21st century.

He also recognized the efforts of the thousands of Alaska-based Air Force and Army troops and units deployed from Alaska to serve in the global war on terrorism and elsewhere.

“The 517th Airlift Squadron has served for over a year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Crews from the 68th Medical Company have saved the lives of the injured and wounded in Afghanistan,” President Bush said. “Soldiers of the 95th Chemical Company are in Kuwait dealing with decontamination and hazardous material operations. And the 4th Battalion, 123rd Aviation Brigade Regiment has been flying missions throughout the deserts of Iraq and Kuwait.”

From the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, “Arctic Warriors” are leaving their mark and a legacy of freedom, the president said.

The president said terrorists are trying to put fear into the mind of people around the world. He said he will do what he can stop them.

“They hit us and expect us to run,” the president said. “America will never run. We will stand and fight until we win the war on terror.”

He said to fight terrorism, the U.S. military is helping train Iraqi military forces “so they can defend their people and take the fight to the enemy.”

“We’re making steady progress. With every passing month, more and more Iraqi forces are standing up,” President Bush said.

“The Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and confidence. At the time of the Fallujah operations a year ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat,” he said. “Today, there are nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our U.S. military forces.”

The president said, “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. When our commanders on the ground tell me the Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.”

President Bush said troops deserve to know that the American people’s support will remain firm when the going gets tough.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Miller said hearing directly from the president was special.

“Being in Alaska, sometimes I feel so far away from everything that I start to wonder if I’m really making a difference,” said the Airman, of the 381st Intelligence Squadron.

The Airman liked hearing the president say “that we’re directly making an impact and a difference in this war.”

“That makes me feel good and makes me want to work that much harder and get to work that much earlier and stay that much later,” Airman Miller said. “To really try harder every day to make a difference -- most importantly for those people in Iraq, on the ground fighting.”

President Bush said this time of war was a time for sacrifice.

“The greatest burden falls on our military families,” President Bush said. “We lost some of our nation’s finest -- and each loss is heartbreaking.”

Afterward, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush met privately with four families who had relatives killed in action, thanking them for their sacrifice.