- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

President Bush yesterday told troops at Fort Carson, Colo., which has lost 31 soldiers in the Iraq war, that they and their family members are sacrificing to secure “democracy, tolerance and the rights and dignity of every people.”

Speaking to hundreds of beret-clad soldiers and their family members in an aircraft hangar at Butts Army Air Field, the president expressed deep sadness over the loss of any American soldier.

“Here, you have felt loss. Every person who dies in the line of duty leaves a family that lives in sorrow and comrades who must go on without them. The Fort Carson community said farewell to some of your best,” he said.

But Mr. Bush said each soldier has “answered a great calling.”

“You live by a code of honor, in service to your nation, for the safety and security of your fellow citizens.”

“You and I have taken an oath to defend America. We’re meeting that duty together, and I’m proud to be the commander in chief of the greatest military, full of the finest people on the face of this earth,” he said to thunderous applause and cheers.

Standing in front of huge U.S. flags, the president said all U.S. forces “are serving at a crucial period for America and for all free nations.”

“We are fighting the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other parts of the world so we do not have to fight them on the streets of our own cities. And we will win,” Mr. Bush said to loud cheers. “The United States of America will not be intimidated by a bunch of thugs.”

The president focused his remarks yesterday on members of the military and their families. With Thanksgiving just a few days away, Mr. Bush said all Americans appreciate the sacrifices of American troops.

He singled out Staff Sgt. Daniel Bader, a “good man [who] left behind his wife, Tiffany, and their 14-month-old daughter.”

“Tiffany Bader said this to a reporter recently, ‘I’m going to wait until she is old enough to realize what happened, and I will tell her exactly what her daddy did for her. He died serving his country so that my little girl could grow up free.’”

Mr. Bush said the courage of Sgt. Bader and his wife “show the spirit of this country in the face of great adversity.”

“And all our military families that mourn can know this: Our nation will never forget the sacrifice their loved one made to protect us all.”

At the Army base, Mr. Bush met privately with about 100 relatives of the war casualties. Four of the dead soldiers were among the 16 soldiers killed Nov. 2 when a helicopter was shot down in the dangerous Sunni triangle near Fallujah, Iraq.

Mr. Bush also had lunch with soldiers at Fort Carson, which has sent 12,000 troops to Iraq — its largest deployment since World War II.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bush signed a $401.3 billion defense-authorization bill at the Pentagon. There, he said, U.S. forces are facing “a great and historic task” to confront and defeat terrorists.

“The stakes for our country could not be higher,” he said. “We face enemies that measure their progress by the chaos they inflict, the fear they spread and the innocent lives they destroy.”

The bill signed into law yesterday raises salaries for soldiers by an average of 4.15 percent, extends increases in combat and family-separation pay, and grants Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld increased control over 700,000 civilian employees.


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