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Bush Visits Wounded Soldiers at Washington DC-Area Army Hospital - 2003-12-18

President Bush says Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by U.S. troops fighting overseas. Mr. Bush visited soldiers wounded in Iraq at an Army hospital outside Washington.

President Bush says the peace and security of the United States depends on the bravery of U.S. troops.

"We are asking a lot of them, particularly in the first war of the 21st century. We put a lot of fine troops into harms way to make this country more secure and the world more free and the world more peaceful. We ask them to face great dangers to meet a national need," the president said.

In return, President Bush says the nation has made a commitment to the men and women of the military and to their loved ones to provide excellent health care to everyone injured in combat.

During the president's visit to the Army hospital, doctors examined both his knees. Mr. Bush has some pain in his right knee that has forced him to scale back a rigorous exercise schedule. The 57-year-old avid runner is now exercising more in the pool.

Mr. Bush also visited Secretary of State Colin Powell who is at the military hospital recovering from surgery Monday to remove prostate cancer.

President Bush got a warm reception from medical staff who he praised for their care of U.S. troops. More than 2,200 soldiers have been injured in combat in Iraq. The Pentagon says there have been more than 450 deaths, more than 300 of them in hostile action.

The growing deaths and continuing attacks on U.S. troops had hurt the president's approval ratings since he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq in May.

Since the capture of Saddam Hussein, the latest public opinion polls put the president's approval rating at 63 percent, his highest since June.