Bush: Veterans Set Example for Today's Military Heroes

 By Donna Miles
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2006  - With "the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world on their side," Americans should feel confident in efforts to combat terrorism and spread democracy, President Bush said today in praise of the nation's armed forces.

Speaking at the 88th Annual American Legion Convention here, the president thanked the organization for its long-time support of U.S. troops and told veterans in the group they've set an example for today's servicemembers.

"Our men and women on the front lines are taking inspiration from the valor and courage that you've shown in the field of battle," Bush said.

"When they face dark moments in the thick of the fight, they remember that you faced enemies as brutal and determined as those who threaten America today, and they remember how you prevailed," he said. "And now they're picking up your mantle and carrying on your fight, and like our veterans they're bringing security to our citizens and freedom to the world."

Bush cited a letter a group of soldiers serving in Iraq sent to the American Legion headquarters in Washington several years ago. "Veterans of past wars will forever be in our hearts as American heroes," he said, quoting the letter. "Their sacrifices give us courage, and their devotion reminds us of what we are fighting for."

Today's military members are serving with courage and distinction on many fronts in the war on terror and making tremendous progress, Bush said. He cited successes in fighting terrorists who threaten the United States and in helping bring freedom to people who lived under oppression in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like those who served before them, today's servicemembers are making huge sacrifices for their country and its cause, some giving their lives in the process, Bush said.

"As veterans, you've lost friends and comrades in the field of battle, and you understand the sadness that has come to some of our nation's military families," Bush said. "We pray for the families of the fallen, and we honor the memory of all who have given their lives in freedom's cause."

The United States will honor that memory by pushing forward to defeat terrorists, spread liberty and lay the foundation of peace for the future, he said.

Although the nation can never fully repay its servicemembers and veterans for the contributions they've made, it can demonstrate its appreciation by supporting them, the president said. He cited increased funding for veterans programs -- up $35 billion since 2001 -- that provides increased access to medical care and other services. In addition, the new Veterans Benefits Act authorizes $1 billion in new and expanded benefits for disabled veterans, surviving spouses and their children.

"The families of our veterans have served our country," Bush said. "Our nation will honor their service by standing with them in their time of need."