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President Bush Makes Holiday Visit to Wounded Troops

U.S. President George Bush met with wounded troops before the Christmas holiday. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

The president and Mrs. Bush visited 38 patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, just outside the nation's capital.

Most of those servicemen and women were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some lost arms or legs. Mr. Bush awarded 16 Purple Hearts to 14 of the wounded during a visit where he also spoke with family members and medical staff.

He and the First Lady joined Girl Scouts and children of hospital staff in wrapping and sorting presents for families and children of wounded soldiers to be delivered on Monday's Christmas holiday.

President Bush says the nation owes a huge debt of gratitude for what he calls the incredible men and women who serve in the armed forces.

"I want all our fellow citizens to understand that we are lucky to have men and women who would volunteer to serve our country like those who wear our uniform," he said. "We are lucky to have their families support them so strongly. We owe them all we can give them, not only when they are in harms way, but when they come home, to help them adjust if they have wounds or help them adjust after their time in service."

Mr. Bush will spend the Christmas holiday at the presidential retreat at Camp David. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet with the president at Camp David Saturday following his return from a three-day trip to Iraq. White House officials say they will be joined by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

The president is working on what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq which he is expected to announce early next year. Among the ideas he is considering is a temporary surge of more U.S. troops to Iraq in hopes of improving security in Baghdad.

After Christmas, the president and Mrs. Bush leave for their Texas ranch where there will be a meeting of the National Security Council on December 28. Mr. and Mrs. Bush return to Washington on New Year's Day.