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President Bush Thanks Troops and Veterans

President Bush says American troops fighting overseas are making the nation safer by taking on terrorists abroad rather than facing them at home. The president marked America's Veterans Day with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.

On behalf of what he says is a grateful nation, President Bush gave thanks to the 25 million Americans who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

"These are the hidden heroes of a peaceful nation, our colleagues and friends, neighbors and family members, who answered the call [to serve], and returned to live in the land they defended," said President Bush.

The president says America's veterans are drawn from several generations and many backgrounds, serving from the Persian Gulf War, to the Cold War, to Vietnam and Korea, to the Second World War. They even include a few dozen surviving veterans from the First World War.

But President Bush paid special tribute to the men and women who have served in the two wars during his administration, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"In Afghanistan, these brave Americans helped sweep away a vicious tyranny allied with terror, and prepared the way for a free people to elect its own leaders," he said. "In Iraq, our men and women fought a ruthless enemy of America, setting the people free from a tyrant who now sits in a prison cell."

President Bush says all who have served in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq are liberators in the best tradition of America.

"Their actions have made our nation safer in a world full of new dangers," continued George W. Bush. "Their actions have also upheld the ideals of America's founding, which defines us still. Our nation values freedom not just for ourselves, but for all. And because Americans are willing to serve and sacrifice for this cause, our nation remains the greatest force for good among all the nations on the earth."

The president spoke as thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops are pressing a ground assault on insurgents in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The U.S. military says more than a dozen U.S. servicemen have been killed in that action.

The president says troops in Iraq have a clear mission to defeat terrorists and aid the rise of a new government that can defend itself. He says those troops are making Americans proud, and they are winning.

Mr. Bush also paid tribute to those Americans who died in combat, many of whom are buried in the green rolling hills of Arlington National Cemetery, overlooking Washington's monuments.

"They gave us every day that we live in freedom," said President Bush. "The security of America depends on our active leadership in the world, to oppose emerging threats and to spread freedom that leads to the peace we all want."

President Bush says America's leadership ultimately depends on the commitment and character of its armed forces.