President Bush Meets with Military Support Organizations
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Laura and I are honored to welcome you here to the South Lawn. Welcome to the people's house. (Applause.) First, I'd like to thank Katy Benko for singing the national anthem. It's not only a beautiful morning to sing the national anthem, it's a beautiful setting in which to sing the national anthem. Katy's husband, Ryan, is deployed to Iraq. Katy, make sure you email him and tell him how appreciative we are of your service, and tell him how appreciative all of us are of your voice. (Applause.)
Laura and I want to thank the members of our -- my administration for joining us. Mr. Vice President, we're really thrilled you're here. Thank you for coming, sir. (Applause.) Secretary of State Condi Rice is with us today. Madam Secretary, appreciate you being here. (Applause.) Secretary Jim Nicholson of the Veterans Affairs Administration; thanks for coming, Jim. (Applause.)
For you veterans who are here, there is no more solemn obligation by your government to make sure you have all it takes to -- for your health care, and for your support. I feel a very strong obligation, since it was my decision that committed young men and women into combat, to make sure our veterans who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan get all the help this government can possibly provide. (Applause.)
I appreciate the Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, for joining us; the Secretary of the Navy, Don Winter; General "Hoss" Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Sandee. By the way, General Cartwright is a Marine. (Applause.) I'm not playing to the crowd or anything. (Laughter.)
I want to welcome members of this crowd who have lost a loved one in this war against terror. Our hearts go out to you. We love you. The best way to honor the sacrifices that your loved one made, as well as the sacrifice you have made, is to accomplish the mission, is to achieve the peace. (Applause.)
Laura and I welcome the families who have got a loved one overseas, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, fighting these extremists and terrorists. The best way to honor your loved one is to make sure that he or she has the full support of the United States government as you accomplish the mission that we have set. (Applause.) By the way, for the loved ones here, I fully understand the best way to sustain a volunteer army is to make sure you're happy -- (laughter) -- is to make sure you've got good housing; to make sure that you've got good health care; to make sure that you understand that we know that you're in this fight along with your husband or wife or son or daughter. And that's exactly how this administration feels. (Applause.)
For the veterans who are here, for those of you who are veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan, thank you for volunteering in the face of danger. (Applause.) And for the people who aren't veterans yet, still remain on active duty, thanks for wearing the uniform of the greatest country on the face of the Earth. We're proud of you. (Applause.)
I want to thank the service organizations and those who have come together to support our families and our troops. I can't tell you how important it is for organizations like the Vets for Freedom or the VFW or the American Legion and other groups to -- Gold Star Mothers, got you, okay, thank you -- Blue Star Mothers, Gold Star Mothers, all the mothers, yes. (Applause.) Every day is Mother's Day as far as your concerned, isn't it? (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don't forget the dads.
THE PRESIDENT: And the dads, yes. I knew this was going to happen. (Laughter.) Yes, the wives; okay, fine. (Laughter.) Everybody is supporting our troops. I want to thank you for doing it. (Applause.)
It's important people hear from you. It's important people hear your voice. And I want to thank you for organizing. I want to thank you not only for the grassroots support of our families, I want to thank you for going up to Capitol Hill. And here's a message I hope you deliver: The Commander-in-Chief wants to succeed -- (applause) -- and the Commander-in-Chief takes seriously the recommendations of our military commanders. General Petraeus came back to the United States to deliver the recommendations he made to me. Inherent in his recommendations is, one, his belief we're succeeding, his belief we will succeed, and I ask the United States Congress to support the troop levels and the strategies I have embraced. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. When the history books are finally written about this chapter in the war against extremists and radicals, they will recognize certain truths: one, that we recognize that if we were to retreat from the Middle East the enemy would not be content to remain where they are, but they would follow us here. We recognize that the best way to protect our homeland is to defeat an enemy overseas so we do not have to face them here on the streets of America. And we recognize that liberty is powerful, that liberty will yield the peace that we want for generations to come; that will recognize that this generation of Americans did the hard work now, so that future generations could live in security and peace.
And so on this beautiful morning we thank you for your steadfast resolve, we appreciate your support of those brave souls who have volunteered in the face of the danger. We ask for God's blessings on the families and our troop in harm's way. And we thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts. God bless you all. (Applause.)