President Bush is asking Americans celebrating the Independence Day holiday to thank the U.S. men and women serving in the military, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Party criticized the president for what it says is a failure to be honest about the cost of the Iraq war.
This July 4, the United States celebrates the 229th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
President Bush says the national holiday is a time for Americans to come together and remember the ideals of liberty that led to the founding of the United States. He also urged Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July by honoring the sacrifices of the U.S. men and women in uniform and their families.
"On Independence Day, we are also mindful that the promises of the Declaration have been secured by the service and sacrifice of every generation," he said.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president reminded listeners that a new generation of Americans is defending the United States and its democracy against "determined enemies."
"At posts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world, our men and women in uniform are taking the fight to the terrorists overseas, so that we do not have to face the terrorists here at home," he said. "And by freeing millions from oppression, our Armed Forces are redeeming a universal principle of the Declaration, that all are created equal, and all are meant to be free."
There are currently some 140,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq, while another 18,000 are deployed to Afghanistan. The United States is home to 25 million military veterans.
Delivering the Democratic Party's weekly radio address, Senator Patty Murray from Washington State said the president's words of praise for U.S. troops are not matched by his administration's funding for basic necessities, such as armor for troops, or health care for returning war veterans.
"Due to their failures, we saw families raising funds to buy bulletproof vests for soldiers fighting in Iraq," Senator Murray said. "And now, due to their failures, we see that the VA [Veterans Administration] doesn't have the money to provide the needed medical care, when our troops return home."
Many Democrats, including Senator Murray, have been concerned for some time that the Veterans Affairs Department would not have enough money to pay for the medical treatment for injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a charge the Bush administration had long denied.
Last week, the Veterans Affairs Department admitted it was short at least $1 billion this year. The Republican-led Senate quickly voted 96-0 to spend an extra $1.5 billion on U.S. veterans.