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By John Scaggs

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President Bush Salutes Veterans During Visit To Air Force Museum
(November 15, 2010)

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Former President George W. Bush speaks to an audience Nov. 11, 2010, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. President Bush visited the museum on Veterans Day to honor fallen heroes and members of the armed forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Al Bright
Former President George W. Bush speaks to an audience Nov. 11, 2010, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. President Bush visited the museum on Veterans Day to honor fallen heroes and members of the armed forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Al Bright
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (11/12/2010 - AFNS)

Former President George W. Bush praised veterans, active-duty personnel and their families during a speech at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Nov. 11, 2010. The 43rd president served as the keynote speaker for a special Veterans Day tribute there.

President Bush began by talking about his move from the White House to his own house in Dallas, where he lives with his wife Laura, and their dog, Barney. He then transitioned into the importance of paying tribute to the children of veterans and active-duty members.

With regard to his decision to fight the war on terrorism, President Bush shared the contents of a letter from a young girl named Nicole Carter.

"She wrote to me saying, 'As much as I don't want my dad to fight, I'm willing to give him to you. I hope he doesn't get killed. But if he does get killed, I know he died for the people in our country.'
"Our country is blessed to have military families and their children who make sacrifices along with their moms and dads," he continued. "On this Veterans Day, we pay tribute to those children."

President Bush stated that one of the hardest aspects regarding the war on terrorism was meeting with the families of those who died while serving their country.

"I wasn't sure how some families would react toward me," President Bush said. "Would they hate me? But I felt it was my responsibility to comfort those who had lost a loved one."

President Bush also shared a story involving a meeting with Valerie Chapman, the widow of Tech. Sgt. John Chapman. During a reconnaissance mission in northeastern Afghanistan, Sergeant Chapman attacked two enemy bunkers, sacrificing his life in order to save the lives of his colleagues.

"Valerie told me that John loved the Air Force, having enlisted when he was 19," President Bush said. "When I saw his two daughters, my heart broke at the thought of them growing up without their father.

"As the meeting wrapped up, Valerie handed me a copy of her husband's memorial pamphlet," he continued. "She told me 'If anyone ever tells you this (war) is the wrong thing to do, you look at this.'

"Valerie had written a note on the pamphlet: 'John did his job, now you do yours,'" President Bush explained. "I reviewed her words every time I made decisions about the war. On this Veterans Day, we honor the families of the fallen."

President Bush then told a story involving a Jan. 1, 2006, encounter with Army Sgt. Christian Bagge while both men were at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Sergeant Bagge was a patient, having lost both legs due to injuries from a roadside bomb while in Iraq.

"Christian told me he used to be a runner and planned to run again," President Bush said. "I was hoping to boost his spirits so I told him, 'Call me when you're ready and I will run with you.'"

Six months later, Sergeant Bagge met the president on the south lawn of the White House.

"He had two prosthetic legs," President Bush said. "We took a couple of laps around the jogging track. I marveled at Christian's strength and spirit. He didn't view himself as a victim. He was proud of what he had done in Iraq and hoped his example might inspire others.

"On this Veterans Day, we honor the wounded and hold them in our prayers," President Bush continued. "Our country owes them our gratitude and support."

President Bush also spoke about his final trip to Afghanistan in 2008. While talking with a special forces unit inside a hangar, President Bush realized many of them had served multiple tours while attempting to locate terrorists in the treacherous mountain terrain.

"This was one of the most dangerous missions you could have," he said. "I shook their hands and told them how grateful I was for their service."

Later a small group of soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment entered and the platoon leader asked President Bush if he would participate in a brief ceremony.

"The platoon leader unfurled an American flag from his pouch and raised his right hand," President Bush said. "Several men stood opposite and raised their right hands. The platoon leader delivered the reenlistment oath, which his troops repeated. I was amazed by the willingness of our troops to volunteer in the face of danger.

"On this Veterans Day, we honor those still on active-duty and pledge to support them at all times and in all places once they become veterans."

He remarked that one of the few things he misses since leaving office was serving as the commander in chief.

"I hope these stories give you a sense of why, because I got to meet remarkable people who helped to make our nation safer," President Bush said. "Our troops gave 25 million people the chance to live in freedom and their efforts changed the direction of the Middle East for generations to come."

President Bush concluded by saying America is a magnificent country that produces patriots.

"Freedom is beautiful," he said. "For those men and women who kept or continue to keep freedom's march alive for the sake of peace, thank you and God bless you."
By John Scaggs
Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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