|WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2008 – On his last Veterans Day as
commander in chief, President Bush paid tribute to all those who have worn the
uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard during a
speech at the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.|
"Today we send a clear message to all who have worn the
uniform: Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you
for standing up when your nation needed you most," he told the crowd of about
5,000, which included 2,500 veterans and about 500 members of the active
Like the many veterans who have served in the military, Bush noted that the
Intrepid has also served the nation well. Launched on April 26, 1943, and
commissioned on Aug. 16, 1943, the Intrepid took part in the World War II
invasion of the Marshall Islands and played a key role in the amphibious assault
on Okinawa and the Battles of Leyte Gulf.
Following the war's end, the Intrepid continued to serve, Bush said.
"As the United States raced into the new frontier of space, the Intrepid stood
by to retrieve astronauts returning to Earth," Bush said. "During the Cold War,
she patrolled the Mediterranean and helped force the surrender of pro-Castro
terrorists who had hijacked a freighter in the Caribbean, and did three tours
off the waters of Vietnam."
After more than 30 years at sea, the Intrepid was decommissioned in 1974,
destined to be scrapped. But thanks to the work of the Intrepid Museum
Foundation, Bush said, the Intrepid moved to New York City, and "since 1982, she
has been a museum that educates new generations of Americans about the high
price that those who came before them paid for their freedom."
"Even as a museum, the Intrepid still answered the call to service," the
president said. On Sept. 11, 2001, following the terrorist attack on New York,
the Intrepid was used as an emergency command center, with first responders
launching helicopters from the decks. Bush said the ship, "which helped defeat
the great totalitarian threats of the 20th century – was front and center in the
opening moments of a new struggle against the forces of hatred and fear.
"The war on terror has required courage; it has required resolve equal to what
previous generations of Americans brought to the fields of Europe and the deep
waters of the Pacific," he said. "And I'm proud to report to my fellow citizens,
our armed forces -- the armed forces of this generation -- have showed up for
the fight, and America is more secure for it.
"They are representative of the finest our nation offers. And they have the
support of strong and caring and loving families," he continued. "And so on this
Veterans Day, not only do we honor those who have worn the uniform, those who
are wearing the uniform -- we honor their families."
Bush said the nation has a moral obligation to support military families and
veterans. He noted that he has worked with Congress to nearly double the funding
for servicemembers and to implement recommendations to ensure "we have a mental
health care system and physical health care system worthy of the sacrifice of
those who have worn the uniform."
"It has been my privilege to work with the United States Congress to expand
education benefits for both members of our military as well as our veterans," he
said. "It has been my privilege to say loud and clear to our veterans, ‘We love
you, we respect you, and we thank you for serving the United States of
Five servicemembers accompanied the president to New York aboard Air Force One:
Montana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce-Merino, Marine Sgt. John
Badon, Navy Chief Petty Officer Shenequa Cox, Coast Guard Petty Officer Chris
Hutto and Air Force Senior Airman Alicia Goetschel.
Noyce-Merino is assigned to B Company, 1-163rd Cavalry Regiment, Montana Army
National Guard; Badon is assigned to the Basic School for Martial Arts Center of
Excellence, Quantico, Va.; Cox is assigned to Navy Information Operations
Command, Kunia, Hawaii; Hutto is assigned to the Aids to Navigation Team,
Jacksonville, Fla.; and Goetschel is assigned to the 100th Security Forces
Squadron, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
Upon arrival in New York, Bush said he was honored to travel with these men and
women who volunteered to serve the nation in a time of war.
"Veterans have inspired troops such as these. Veterans have inspired me," the
president said. "I was raised by a veteran. I appreciate the commitment to our
country that the veterans have made. I am committed to making sure that today's
veterans get all the health care and support they need from the federal
government for agreeing to serve in a time of danger.
"Our nation is blessed because our liberties have been defended by brave men and
women in the past," he said. "And we are blessed to have brave men and women
defend our liberties today."
During his speech, Bush noted that he is often asked what he's going to miss
about the presidency once he leaves office.
"The truth of the matter is, I will miss being the commander-in-chief of such a
fabulous group of men and women -- those who wear the uniform of the United
States military," he said.