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US Military Honors Bush as He Prepares to Leave Office

The U.S. military has paid its formal farewell to President George Bush, as he prepares to step down as commander-in-chief. Representatives from all branches of the armed forces took part in a ceremony honoring the president at an army base near Washington.

It is a ceremony steeped in tradition - with military bands, troops in formation, and praise for a departing commander.

President Bush responded with remarks that were rather nostalgic in tone. He said as his time in office dwindles down, he is faced with a series of lasts - his last trip abroad, his last commencement address, and his last holiday season at the White House.

"These have all been wonderful experiences," he said. "But nothing compares to the honor of standing before you today and addressing America's armed forces as your commander-in-chief."

He praised the valor of American troops, their work in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their dedication to their country.

"There will come a day when your grandchildren will ask, 'What did you do during your time in uniform?' And you will be able to say, 'We made the military stronger, we made the world freer, and we made America more secure," he said.

Mr. Bush acknowledged that the decisions he has made as commander-in-chief have not always been popular. But he told the men and women of the U.S. military their cause has always been just and right.

"The missions you have carried out have always been necessary and the work you have done has been every bit as courageous and idealistic as that of any generation that came before you," he said.

President Bush leaves office on January 20 and will return to his home state of Texas on one of the military jets that he has used during his two terms in office. But he will make this flight as a private citizen, and the plane will no longer carry the code name Air Force One - that designation is reserved only for aircraft carrying a sitting President of the United States.