For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 24, 2008
President Bush Welcomes Members of Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride to White House
3:26 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Doocy, thanks for the introduction. This has got to be one of the most inspiring athletic events in our nation's history. At least it is for me, and I hope it is for you.
I was going to ride with the guys today, but Laura told me I probably wouldn't be able to keep up. (Laughter.) There is no doubt in my mind the people behind me are some of the most bravest people in our country's history. I admire their courage; I admire their determination. (Applause.) We're honored to have you here.
I'm also joined by the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Thank you for coming, Madam Secretary. (Applause.) Secretary Jim Peake of the Department of Veterans Affairs is with us. Deputy Secretary Gordon England is with us. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs are here. Other members of my administration and members of Congress. The reason they're there is the same reason I'm here -- we love and respect our military. And I thank you for coming. (Applause.)
I want to thank Granger Smith and the Band for joining us today. Thanks for being here. I appreciate those who wear the uniform who have joined us. I'm proud of you. Thanks for serving. I want to thank the Wounded Warriors. I want to thank their care-givers from Walter Reed and Bethesda. I appreciate the members of the Wounded Warrior Project, and I want to thank the family members and friends who are here today. Welcome to the White House. (Applause.)
Four years ago, Chris Carney decided to ride coast-to-coast to raise awareness and money for our wounded warriors. In the first year he biked more than 5,000 miles, from Long Island to the Pacific Ocean, and raised more than a million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project. He started what's called the annual Soldier Ride.
The next year, wounded vets started coming along. In 2006, 75 wounded warriors took turns riding portions of the cross-country journey. These servicemen and women rode to raise money for their fellow soldiers, including those who were hurt too much to ride. And they also rode to show themselves what they could do, and in so doing, they showed the world what they could do.
Americans came out to cheer. More soldiers and supporters came out to ride. More Americans then came out to show their support. So the Soldier Ride started doing different races around the country so even more of our citizens could participate. Today hundreds of people have gathered here on the South Lawn to kick off this ride, and I want to thank you all for being here. (Applause.)
The three-day bike ride you're starting today at the White House says a lot. It says that you're showing that even when you're wounded, you're not done fighting. One of the riders today is Marine Corporal Chad Watson. I've gotten to know Chad. I met him when I was at Walter Reed three weeks after his Humvee was hit with an IED on patrol in Fallujah. He lost his right leg, he shattered his left ankle and foot, he took shrapnel to his face. And when I went into his room, he wanted to stand at attention and shake hands with the Commander-in-Chief, as well as salute.
He got up to his walker. His daddy helped him and so did his brother. He held himself upright with his arm strength while a fellow Marine read his accommodation, and I had the honor of giving him the Purple Heart.
I told him to sit down. He didn't want to. He was a Marine. (Applause.) And now he's here. He's got a new leg, and thanks to that leg, Chad will be able to start on even a greater journey than the one he begins today -- this summer he's going to walk down the aisle to get married to his beautiful bride. (Applause.) We're glad you're here.
The technology that you're witnessing today is helping our troops regain their lives, and it's state of the art, and that's the way it should be. We owe those who wear the uniform all the support they can possibly have. We'll give them the best medical care, and for the docs and nurses here, there's no doubt in my mind our troops get the best medical care possible.
We owe them the best prosthesis, and if there's a new advance, it will be made available for our folks. We owe them a Veterans Health Administration that's seamless and works well. We owe them our thanks.
These service members are focused on what you have to give than what you've lost. I appreciate the spirit of those in the Soldier Ride.
I thank my fellow citizens for supporting our troops. I appreciate the fact that the families have stood by those who wear the uniform. I appreciate your loved ones who are here today to cheer you on. The riders represent the spirit of the strongest military in the world, and the greatest country on Earth. I'm thankful that we have brave men and women like you who step forward to protect America. I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.
And now let us get started. God bless you. (Applause.)
END 3:32 P.M. EDT