President Bush has taken part in a military ceremony honoring the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and welcoming his replacement. From the White House, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.
President Bush lauded the lengthy service of General Peter Pace, whose military career began during the Vietnam War and who became the first Marine to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - the U.S. military's top uniformed job - in 2005.
Mr. Bush praised the general as one of the most respected and accomplished military leaders he has ever known.
"He helped craft America's response to an unprecedented assault on our homeland [9/11]," said President Bush. "He helped liberate two nations from brutal tyrannies and helped bring freedom to millions of people."
President Bush spoke at Fort Myer outside Washington.
General Pace, whom the Bush administration declined to nominate for a second two-year term, served during a time of extraordinary challenges for the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. During his tenure, he saw violence in Iraq escalate dramatically until this year's troop surge, which appears to be quelling bloodshed in some areas.
When he took the podium, the general stressed the importance of the American people's support for troops in harm's way, and called for civility in public debate over the war in Iraq and other conflicts. Pace also suggested there are no easy options for ending America's military involvement in Iraq.
"I want everyone to understand that this dialogue is not about if we can vote our way out of a war," said General Pace. "We have an enemy who has declared war on us. We are in a war. They want to stop us from living the way we want to live our lives."
The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, who has pledged to travel to Iraq to see firsthand how U.S. efforts there are progressing. During his Senate confirmation hearings, the 60-year-old Mullen said he shared the American people's frustration over the course of events in Iraq.
After being sworn in, Mullen paid tribute to military families, recognizing the burdens they bear and the sacrifices they make to back America's troops and their missions. He pledged to do all in his power to give America's service members what they need to execute orders and fulfill missions.
"You are our greatest asset," said Admiral Mullen. "Your bravery and your commitment are our nation's greatest gift. You are true heroes."
President Bush has said he hopes to bring a limited number of U.S. troops home from Iraq during the next year. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen will be expected to provide input as to when and how many service members should be withdrawn.