- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) — President George W. Bush on Saturday commemorated the Easter holiday and Passover by paying tribute to military personnel serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and those who lost their lives in the conflict to liberate the people of the Arab nation.

"As a nation, we continue to pray for all who serve in our military and those who remain in harm's way. We also pray for those who have lost people they love in this war," Bush said.

The president used his weekly radio address to highlight the meaning of the holy season as prisoners of war headed back to the United States and families buried loved ones lost in the fighting.

"This holy season reminds us of the value of freedom, and the power of a love stronger than death," the president said.

Bush and first lady Laura Bush have been spending the Easter weekend at their ranch in Crawford, Texas. The president said the nation shared in the happiness of learning that the seven American prisoners of war were rescued in northern Iraq earlier this week. They were captured by Iraqis last month when their convoy was ambushed near Nasiriya. They were treated in Germany for minor injuries and debriefed by intelligence agents before returning home Saturday.

"Thanks to the courage of our Marines and the help of Iraqis, their families have even more reason to celebrate this weekend," Bush said.

After hearing the good news, the parents of rescued helicopter pilot Ronald Young, Jr. of Georgia, thanked people from across America and as far away as Australia and Japan for their cards and flowers and prayers, the president said.

Kaye Young, Ronald's mother, said "Even as sad as we were, as upset as we were to think that he was being held, there have been so many blessings." Young's mother said that "All over this country, people cared so much about us and about our son."

So far, 127 U.S. troops have died in the war, with another 495 U.S. service personnel wounded.

"America mourns those who have been called home, and we pray that their families will find God's comfort and God's grace," Bush said. "His purposes are not always clear to us, yet this season brings a promise: that good can come out of evil, that hope can arise from despair, and that all our grief will someday turn to joy, a joy that can never be taken away."

The president and first lady are scheduled to attend church services in Crawford on Sunday, but as of Friday, the White House had not released the name of the church and did not say whether other members of the Bush family would join them.




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