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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 22, 2005
Mrs. Bush's Remarks to Troops in Germany
Ramstein Air Base
11:25 A.M. (Local)
MRS. BUSH: I'm the one that should be applauding you. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for the very warm welcome to Ramstein Air Base. And thanks to Brigadier General Bailey and to Colonel Kane for your commitment to our country. President Bush and I also thank our German hosts for welcoming us to this beautiful country. (Applause.)
The friendship of so many Germans has helped to make Ramstein a home away from home for so many Americans. As the largest American community outside the United States, K-Town is a testament to the partnership between our countries. (Applause.) Germany is a close friend and ally of the United States and our nation and our people are bound by common values and common interests. Our military alliance protects freedom throughout the world. This successful alliance would not be possible without the incredible men and women of Team Ramstein. (Applause.)
I am thrilled to be at the home of the 435th Air Base Wing, the 86th Airlift Wing -- (applause) -- and the 38th Combat Support Wing. (Applause.) I told my father-in-law that I was coming here today and he suggested that I make a grand entrance by parachute. (Laughter.) I told him I thought I'd wait for my 80th birthday. (Laughter.)
President Bush and I have had the privilege of visiting our troops all over the world, from Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, to Aviano Air Force Base in Italy, to Camp Bonifas in Korea. There's no place I'd rather be than spending time with the men and women of the United States military and their families. (Applause.)
And thanks especially to the military families here for your devotion to your loved ones. I know there are some military spouses sitting behind me. Thank you all, also, for your devotion to our country. I appreciate the many veterans and military leaders who are here with us today. Thanks to each one of you for your service to America and for your leadership for our Armed Forces. Every unit at this base is performing with distinction. Amazingly, you direct air operations in a theater spanning three continents, covering more than 20 million square miles in 93 countries. And your valiant work upholds the great tradition of some of the bravest and most skilled Americans who served here.
For more than 50 years the men and women of Ramstein have worked to secure peace and freedom throughout the world. Established to stop the spread of communism, this base quickly evolved as a fighter central for the United States Air Force in Europe. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, your mission has been transformed. You support peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts in the Balkans and in Northern and Southern Africa. And, of course, Team Ramstein is on the front lines of the new war of the 21st century, to confront terror and to defeat it. (Applause.)
During Operation Enduring Freedom, you supported an air bridge from Europe to Asia that delivered more than 3,000 tons of humanitarian relief to millions in Northern Afghanistan, preventing mass starvation there. And in Iraq, you're opening critical airfields and providing vital en-route support to deploying forces. Whether training police officers in Baghdad, providing logistic support in Afghanistan, or comforting the wounded here at Landstuhl, Team Ramstein lives by one code: One Team, One Fight. (Applause.)
And although you're serving far from home, millions of Americans are thinking of you and praying for you every single day. I'm happy to express the gratitude of our entire nation and to convey the personal regards of your Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.) On behalf of my husband and all Americans, we want you, and all the men and women who are serving around the world, to know we support you, we believe in you and we're proud of you. All who serve in the United States military can take pride in the great work you've accepted.
Your fellow citizens know that your mission is not easy. Many of you have faced long deployments, sometimes far longer than you expected. Many of you enlisted in a time of peace and now find yourselves serving in a time of war. You miss your families and you worry about them, and your families miss and worry about you. Some of you have lost comrades, men and women you'll never forget. And America will never forget them, either. I'm grateful, and I know all Americans are grateful to live in a country that's produced such brave men and women.
As you go about your duties here every day, you're standing watch for freedom and you're protecting the rights and the liberties we all hold dear. And you're bringing opportunity and security to nations that have known decades of cruel oppression. The success you've helped achieve in Iraq and Afghanistan is remarkable. Thanks to America's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and members of the National Guard and Reserves, 50 million men, women and children in these two countries are now enjoying the first taste of freedom. (Applause.)
People across the world were inspired as we watched the Afghan and Iraqi people defy threats of violence, and even death, to vote in the first free elections in their lives. We cannot overlook the historic magnitude of these events, or all that our military men and women did to make them possible. You helped 10 million Afghans gather at polling stations across their country to elect their new President. And just three weeks ago, you supported more than 8 million Iraqis as they elected new leaders for their country.
Coalition soldiers saw voters arriving on crutches and in donkey carts. Those voters had to pass by warnings scribbled on walls that read, "You vote, you die." Despite the threats, people voted in incredible numbers. (Applause.) Children waved Iraqi flags and voters displayed their ink-stained fingers like badges of honor. In scenes like this, we see the liberating power of freedom, and we understand the vital importance of our cause. Today, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are hopeful again about their futures. Across the broader Middle East, people can look to the new freedom of these two countries and find inspiration. And the world has seen once again that the United States military is one of the greatest forces for good on this earth. (Applause.)
The most amazing thing about our men and women in uniform is that even as they fight to defeat terror, they still have an enormous capacity to extend the hand of friendship and compassion to people who desperately want a better life. For our military, heroism with a human touch is part of the mission. That human touch, that concrete hope is delivered in many forms. For some, hope is a clean water well dug by U.S. Army engineers. For others, it's a school opened and refurbished for the first time to young girls, girls who've never before gone to a class.
And this winter, parents are buttoning their children into warm winter coats, bought in a store near a U.S. military base and delivered thousands of miles away to families in need. The faces of our men and women in uniform are the faces of American compassion abroad. Each of you has a greater impact than you can ever imagine on people that you will only know for a brief time. And all of you are delivering the greatest gift they'll ever receive by sacrificing your own comfort, your own safety and your own lives so that others might know freedom. (Applause.)
All of those who serve in our military deserve our utmost respect and so do those who serve without a paycheck and well behind the front lines -- our military families. (Applause.) I know a little bit about having your life turned upside down because the person you love wants to serve the country he loves. (Laughter.) I've met with military wives at Fort Hood in Texas, and with military children at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and I am in awe of your courage and your resiliency. You make countless sacrifices to help your loved ones fulfill their duty. Some of you have been separated from your loved ones by long deployments. You're dealing with the burdens of raising families on your own, and you're also worrying about your husband or wife, or your mom, or your dad, far from home. We'll never forget your commitment or the dedication you have to your loved ones. (Applause.)
By standing for the cause of freedom you're making our world more peaceful. By fighting terrorists abroad, you're making the American people safer at home. And by acting in the best traditions of duty and honor, you're making our country and your Commander-in-Chief incredibly proud. (Applause.)
I was recently privileged to witness a very special moment. During the President's State of the Union speech he recognized a mother and father from Texas who had lost their son in Iraq. On behalf of all Americans, he thanked our military families with grateful heart for their service and their sacrifice. And as the applause grew and filled the chamber of the House of Representatives, a woman from Iraq turned and hugged the mother from Texas. The Iraqi woman's father had been killed by Saddam Hussein, and as the American soldier's mother returned her hug, her son's dog tags caught in the other woman's sweater, binding the two in a shared moment of loss and sorrow, yes, but also of inspiration.
In that moment, we witnessed the power of what you're doing to change the world to make it more free and more hopeful for all of our children. On behalf of President Bush and every American, thank you for ensuring that a new generation of children will grow up in peace.
May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 11:40 A.M. (Local)
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