George W. Bush
Forty-Third President (2001 to 2009)
Thanks The Troops
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
August 4, 2008
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for the warm welcome.
am honored to be with you. No better place to refuel an airplane
than right here. (Applause.) I appreciate you all coming out. I'm
traveling today with the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush
-- (applause) -- our daughter Barbara Bush -- (laughter.) I've just
got one thing to ask the folks here at Eielson. Iceman Team: Ready
AIRMEN: At 50 below!
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely! (Applause.) I thank the Iceman Team for
joining us. I also want to thank the Arctic Warriors of Fort
Wainwright for being here as well. (Applause.)
You know, I've been to a lot of military bases around the world. I
don't think I've ever been to one where a moose can cause a traffic
jam. (Laughter.) Or a base where the snowmobile is considered a lawn
ornament. (Laughter.) And for you moms and dads out there, it must
be a little strange in the summertime to say to your children, "Make
sure you get home before dark." (Laughter.)
I want to thank General Graper and his wife Melinda for their
hospitality and thank you for your service to our country, General.
I want to thank Colonel Tim Jones, U.S. Army Garrison Commander of
Fort Wainwright, and Theresa. I want to thank Colonel Wenke and his
wife Wendy from the mighty 168th Air Fueling Wing. (Applause.)
The United States military has had no better supporter and stronger
friend than Senator Ted Stevens. Thank you for coming, Senator.
(Applause.) Thank you for bring your daughter. Nothing wrong with a
father bringing his daughter to an event like this.
I'm also pleased that the Governor of the great state of Alaska,
Governor Sarah Palin, and her husband Todd are with us today, too.
I first want to say something to our military families: I can't
thank you enough for all the sacrifices you have given. There is no
question we have the finest military in the world, and one reason
why is because we've got the finest military families in the world.
(Applause.) These have been tough times on our families and I want
to thank you for staying in the fight.
I'm also proud to be here with people who have volunteered in the
face of danger. There is no more important mission than to protect
the United States from harm. Many of you volunteered after the
attacks on the homeland on 9/11, 2001. You understand what I know:
that it is best to defeat the enemy overseas so we do not have to
face them here in the United States. (Applause.)
We have been unrelenting in our efforts to protect America, and I
want to thank you for your service. There is no finer honor than
being the Commander-in-Chief of a fine group of men and women, and
I'm proud to be in your midst.I
want to thank the members of the 354th Fighter Wing. I appreciate
what you do. I appreciate your efforts. I want to thank you for
keeping us safe on the nation's Western flank. I thank you for your
training missions. The people in the lower 48 send their very best.
I want to thank the more than 200 airmen from Eielson who are
deployed around the world, many in the Middle East. (Applause.)
Their service in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere is making this
nation safer. And for the family members of those airmen, God bless
you, and thank you for standing with your loved one.
Eielson is also the home of the
"Guardians of the Last Frontier," the
men and women of the Alaska Air National Guard 168th Air
Refueling Wing. I'm an old Guard pilot myself; I want to thank the
pilots who are here, and I thank those who help these planes stay in
the air. Your contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom and
Operation Iraqi Freedom are significant and important. (Applause.)
I want to thank the soldiers from Fort Wainwright. (Applause.) I'm
proud to be standing with the men and women of Task Force 49 and the
mighty Stryker Brigade. (Applause.) You got to know the folks from
Task Force 49 are pretty tough; after all, they train in 50� below
and they fight in 120� above. (Laughter.)
I appreciate what you're doing to support our missions, and I fully
understand that a Stryker Brigade will soon deploy to Iraq. The
other day I made it clear that our policy on rotations is now 12
months in, 12 months out. (Applause.) I know the Stryker Brigade
from Fort Wainwright was one of the first brigades to extend, and I
understand it puts stress on the families. Because of the progress
we're making in Iraq, there's now certainty in the rotations.
Deployments are difficult, but they are necessary. We are a nation
at war. Oh, some in America say, this is a simple law enforcement
matter -- dealing with these extremists who would do us harm is law
enforcement. Well, if it's a law enforcement matter, that means you
react after the crime. I think it's important, and I know most of
you here think it's important, to stop the crime from happening in
the first place. (Applause.)
And therefore, the United States, today and tomorrow, must stay on
the offense and keep the pressure on this enemy and bring them to
justice so they don't hurt the American citizen again. And we've got
no greater asset than the United States military. (Applause.)
The Stryker Brigade that's heading into Iraq will be heading into a
different situation than the previous Stryker Brigade when they
first went into Iraq. About a year ago people thought Iraq was lost
and hopeless. People were saying, let's get out of there; it doesn't
matter to our national security. Iraq has changed -- a lot -- thanks
to the bravery of people in this hangar and the bravery of troops
all across our country. The terrorists on the run. The terrorists
will be denied a safe haven, and freedom is on the march. And as a
result, our children are more likely to grow up in a peaceful world.
And I thank you for your service and I thank you for your sacrifice.
It is important for the United States of America never to forget the
transformative power of liberty. I believe there's an Almighty, and
I believe a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman, and child on
the face of the Earth is freedom. And I know free societies yield
the peace we all want. It's in our national interest to keep the
pressure on the terrorists, to give them no safe haven, no place to
hide, to keep them on the run.
It's also in our national interest to help others realize the
blessings of a free society, so that when we look back at the
initial chapters of the 21st century we will say, we've done our
duty: We defended the United States of America and we laid the
foundation for peace to come.
I want to thank you for your contributions to that hopeful chapter.
I thank you for your courage. And there is no doubt in my mind that
we will prevail. I've seen firsthand the character of the men and
women who wear our uniform. I know such a man named Sergeant Gregory
Williams. He's right here with us today. He was on night patrol in
Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by an explosive device. The blast
caused Sergeant Williams to lose consciousness. He recovered, and he
put out the flames that were beginning to engulf him and the
soldiers around him. He gave emergency aid to members of his platoon
until he realized he was under enemy fire, and then he provided
covering fire. He pulled his platoon leader out of the smoldering
vehicle. Williams performed these actions despite the fact that he
was burned himself, that he was wounded. His heroism that night
saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, and for that he received the
Distinguished Service Cross. And I'm proud to be in the presence of
such a courageous American citizen. (Applause.)
All here have my pride and have my gratitude. And you have the
thanks of our entire nation. We honor your service. We appreciate
the sacrifice of your families. A lot of Americans will keep you in
their prayers. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the
United States of America. (Applause.)
See Photos of President George W. Bush with the