George W. Bush
Forty-Third President (2001 to
As Commander In Chief
- Arlington, Virginia
January 6, 2009
Mr. Secretary, thank you for the kind introduction -- and thank you
for being an outstanding Secretary of Defense. (Applause.) For a
while, we expected this event to be a joint retirement party. It
didn't turn out that way, did it? (Laughter.) I am pleased that
President-Elect Obama has asked you to stay on, and I am confident
that you'll continue to be a strong leader as the Secretary of
And, Admiral Mullen, thank you for your strong advice, your clear
thinking, and your years of service to our country. (Applause.)
I want to thank you for honoring Laura, who's been a fabulous First
Lady. (Applause.) The military gave her the Distinguished Service
Award -- a lot of friends from Texas think she deserved the Purple
Heart. (Laughter.) I wish I'd have thought of the roses.
Mr. Vice President, I am proud to have served with you for eight
years. The military has had no stauncher defender in my
administration than Vice President Dick Cheney. (Applause.)
I thank members of the Cabinet, members of the administration, and
former members of the Cabinet, especially the former Secretary of
Defense, who did an outstanding job -- Secretary Don Rumsfeld.
I thank the current members of the Joint Chiefs and their families,
as well as the former members of the Joint Chiefs and their families
for joining us today. I want to thank those who wear the uniform;
As my time in office winds down, the days bring a series of "lasts."
I made my last overseas trip on Air Force One. I have delivered my
final college commencement as President. And after much
consideration, I pardoned my last Thanksgiving turkey. (Laughter.)
These have all been wonderful experiences. But nothing compares to
the honor of standing before you today, and addressing America's
Armed Forces as your Commander-in-Chief.
Over the past eight years, I have seen the valor of the American
military time and time again. I saw your valor on September the
11th, 2001, in service members rushing into smoke-filled corridors
to save their colleagues at the Pentagon -- and in planes patrolling
the skies above New York City and Washington. I saw your valor in
the days after the attack, when Americans crowded into recruiting
centers across our country, raised their hands to serve, and pledged
to defend our people and our freedom.
I saw your valor in the forces who deployed to Afghanistan. Within
weeks of September the 11th, you closed down the terrorist training
camps, and you drove the Taliban from power. I saw your valor in the
fearless troops who stormed across the Iraqi desert -- and destroyed
a regime that threatened America. I saw your valor in battle-tested
warriors who signed up for a second, or third, or fourth tour -- and
made the surge in Iraq one of the great successes in America's
The valor of America's Armed Forces have made our nation safer.
Because you've taken the fight to the terrorists abroad, we have not
had to face them here at home. And the world has seen something that
almost no one thought possible: More than seven years after
September the 11th, there has not been another attack on American
The decisions I made as your Commander-in-Chief have not always been
popular. But the cause you have served has always been just and
right. The missions you have carried out have always been necessary.
And the work you have done has every bit -- has been every bit as
courageous and idealistic as that of any generation that came before
In the years since the war on terror began, America's Armed Forces
have led the largest military liberation since World War II. Because
of your actions, more than 50 million Afghans and Iraqis have seen
the chains of despotism broken -- and are living in the liberty that
the Creator intended. The new wave of freedom in the Middle East has
made America more secure at home -- because it is undermining the
culture of tyranny that fosters radicalism.
There will become a day when your grandchildren will ask, what did
you do during your time in uniform? And you'll be able to say: We
made the military stronger. We made the world freer. And we made
America more secure.
You'll be able to tell them the story of the first decade in the
21st century -- their early days of a generational struggle against
terror and extremism. It is a story of a global coalition led by the
United States that is dedicated to eliminating the forces of
oppression and fear. It is the story of the Iraqi people proudly
holding up ink-stained fingers to show that the threat of violence
could not break their commitment to liberty. It is the story of
young girls going to school in Afghanistan after years when
educating a woman could be punished with beatings or imprisonment.
It is the story about the character in men and women who volunteered
to leave the comforts of home to defend freedom and keep our nation
On behalf of the American people, I thank you for making that
sacrifice. I know you have not shouldered the burdens of military
life alone. You've had the support of strong and loving families to
sustain you. And this morning, I want all of you and your families
to hear your Commander-in-Chief loud and clear: We appreciate you,
we love you, and we honor your service. (Applause.)
We also honor our wounded warriors -- and those who never returned
home from the field of battle. In their sacrifices, we see one of
the extraordinary legacies of our Armed Forces -- the willingness to
give everything to secure safety at home and liberty abroad.
As the Admiral pointed out, we saw that selfless spirit in people
like Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who served in Iraq.
In the fall of 2006, on a rooftop in Iraq, Mike threw himself onto a
grenade in order to save the lives of his teammates. As Admiral
Mullen mentioned, I had the honor of presenting Michael Monsoor's
parents his posthumous Medal of Honor in the White House. On that
day, I saw the deep sadness that is familiar to anyone who has lost
a loved one in the line of duty. But I also saw the pride that comes
with such noble sacrifice -- and the recognition that our freedom
and our security only endure because of the acts of bravery like
That kind of courage, character, and devotion defines our Armed
Forces. So this morning, I cannot accept your kind tribute unless
I'm allowed to return the favor. To the men and women of the Army,
the Navy, the Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and all those
who serve in the Department of Defense: You have the respect of a
grateful nation that you have kept safe. You have the admiration of
millions around the world who would have never tasted freedom
without you. You have the undying love and respect of a man who has
been proud to call himself your Commander-in-Chief.
Two weeks from today, Laura and I will take our final trip back to
Texas -- or, as you Texans understand, back to the promised land. We
have the honor of doing it onboard a 747 piloted by the United
States Air Force -- Colonel Mark Tillman will be the lead pilot.
This brings a fitting symmetry: The military brought me to
Washington eight years ago -- and on January the 20th, the military
is taking me home.
We will take with us many fond memories that we will cherish for the
rest of our lives. We will always remember that you answered the
call to serve when your nation needed you most. We will always
remember that you did your duty with honor and dignity. And we will
always remember the debt of gratitude that each of us who lives in
freedom owes to each of you who has protected it.
May God bless you. And may God always bless the United States.
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