- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NEW YORK

President Bush thanked veterans Tuesday for serving their country, noting wistfully that he’ll “miss being commander in chief of such a fabulous group.”

Mr. Bush marked his last Veterans Day as president with a visit to a New York pier that is home to the World War II aircraft carrier Intrepid, appearing before a crowd of thousands bundled against the windy November chill for the rededication ceremony of the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The president praised veterans in the crowd, including those who served aboard the Intrepid in its long history of military action.

“Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you must,” Mr. Bush said.

In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama honored fallen troops by placing a wreath at a memorial and making a Veterans Day pledge to the many Americans who have served in the military.

“Let us rededicate ourselves to keep a sacred trust with all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America: that America will serve you as well as you have served your country,” Mr. Obama said. “As your next commander in chief, I promise to work every single day to keep that sacred trust with all who have served.”

One week after winning the presidential election, Mr. Obama took a brief break from his primary tasks of planning his administration and monitoring the economic crisis to mark Veterans Day at the Bronze Soldiers Memorial between the Field Museum and Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Illinois senator, who will inherit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from Mr. Bush, was accompanied by Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost her legs in combat. She later ran unsuccessfully for Congress and now is the Illinois governor’s veterans affairs director.

After Mr. Bush spoke in the shadow of the Intrepid and near the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, where sailors and marines peered down on the ceremony from the ship’s deck, astronauts Scott Carpenter and Buzz Aldrin helped the president toss a wreath into the Hudson River as a bugler played “Taps.”

Finally, it was time for the ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle against the hull - only the bottle didn’t break.

Before the speech, Mr. Bush told reporters that one veteran in particular - his father, a World War II pilot - had inspired him.

“I was raised by a veteran. I appreciate the commitment to our country that the veterans have made,” he said. “Our nation is blessed because our liberties have been defended by brave men and women in the past and we are blessed to have brave men and women defend our liberties today.”

Miss Sidoti reported from Chicago.

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