- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. President Bush, tears streaming down his cheeks, yesterday told the parents of a U.S. soldier killed in combat that their son "died for a noble and just cause."
Meeting the relatives of a slain soldier for the first time since the war in Afghanistan began Oct. 7, an emotional Mr. Bush began to break down as soon as he pointed out the parents in a crowd gathered at a local electronics business.
"Today, we've got the mom and dad of a brave soldier who lost his life, and a brother. God bless you," said the president, his voice breaking and his chin quivering.
As Mr. Bush struggled to regain his composure, the crowd stood in applause. The president blinked back tears, then stepped back from the podium and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. He smiled meekly and shrugged his shoulders.
Stepping back up to the microphone, he said: "Thank you all for coming." Several reporters thought Mr. Bush was cutting short his speech.
But he took another deep breath and smeared tears away from his left eye.
"I know your heart aches, and we ache for you. But your son and your brother died for a noble and just cause," he said as a tear rolled down his right cheek.
"May God bless you. May God bless you," he said, to more applause.
He left the tear on his cheek as he continued his speech.
After speaking to workers at the America II Electronics warehouse, where he touted corporate responsibility, Mr. Bush hugged the parents of Sgt. Bradley Crose, killed Monday in a firefight in Afghanistan. The sergeant's mother, Sheila Maguhn, sobbed softly as she spoke with the president.
Sgt. Crose, 22, of Orange Park, Fla., was killed in the bloodiest operation of the war in Afghanistan, code-named Anaconda. The brother and sister-in-law of Spc. Marc Anderson, 30, from Brandon, Fla., also attended yesterday's event.
Both slain men served in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, which is based at Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, Ga. They were killed Monday, along with five other soldiers.
Mr. Bush's emotional moment laid bare the deep pathos he has for the parents and siblings of the men and women serving in the military. In speeches across the country since September 11, Mr. Bush has praised all who contribute to the U.S.-led war against international terrorism.
Previously, the president has struggled to maintain his composure, most noticeably two days after the terrorist attacks when asked by reporters in the Oval Office whether he was praying for himself.
"Well, I don't think about myself right now," he said then. "I think about the families, the children."
As the president paused, his eyes grew moist and his face seemed to involuntarily crease into a deep frown. "I am a loving guy, and I am also someone, however, who has got a job to do. And I intend to do it," he said before striding out of the room.
In his speech yesterday, Mr. Bush pledged to crack down on accounting misconduct by company chief executives after Enron Corp.'s collapse.
"Corporate America must be responsible, must make sure there are no shenanigans or sleight of hands, must make sure there is an openness and disclosure about true liabilities and true assets, and if they don't they must be held to account," Mr. Bush said.
Later at a fund-raiser for the Florida Republican Party, Mr. Bush said he was deeply moved by seeing Sgt. Crose's mother's grief firsthand.
"It broke my heart to see her sadness, I was touched by her grief.
"But I assured her, like I assure you, that this cause is noble, this cause is just. And our country will not relent, we will not tire, we will not falter until we have routed out terror from its very roots and held people accountable for those who would want to hurt America," he said.
The comments capped a day of talk about the war in Afghanistan and the terrorist attacks of September 11, six months ago Monday.
Asked whether he had envisioned capturing or killing terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden by the six-month anniversary, Mr. Bush firmly rebuked that notion.
"I never had any artificial deadlines. … Those who are preoccupied with one individual do not understand the struggle. We fight terror wherever terror exists. And for those people who say, 'Well, one person matters,' they elevate that person to a status that he does not deserve."
He said Americans understand what a full-fledged war against terrorism entails.
"The good news is the American people also understand we're in for a long war and that when it comes to defending freedom, we'll take however long it takes to defend our freedom," he said. "Six months is not a very long period of time when you think about the enemy we fight."
He warned that America's war is just beginning with more casualties like those from Operation Anaconda.
"There's going to be more battles like this one and American people just need to understand that the best way to secure a homeland is to bring them to justice and to get them. And that's exactly what's happening as we speak," he said.
Mr. Bush said he will deliver a speech from the White House South Lawn on Monday to "outline where we are in this war on terror."
"I'm going to remind the American people that we've still got a task at hand in Afghanistan, which is to deny sanctuary to al Qaeda killers," he said.
There will be four events Monday. In New York, city leaders will have an event to commemorate the attacks. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman will be the administration's representative in New York.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will welcome to Washington military leaders who represent all the coalition allies fighting with the United States in the war on terrorism. He will thank the leaders publicly before leading them on a tour of the reconstructed area of the Pentagon.
In London, Vice President Richard B. Cheney will join Prime Minister Tony Blair to commemorate the attack on the United States and to "remember the lives of people from other nations who were lost," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
And at the White House, some 1,300 people will join Mr. Bush, members of Congress, more than 150 ambassadors and 300 family members of September 11 victims for a ceremony.
Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Bush will deliver a "major speech at this event, where the president will commemorate what took place, express the nation's sorrow and sympathy to the families, speak to the nation about the importance of the cause and discuss the future of the missions that lie ahead in protecting the world from terrorism."


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