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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 23, 2006

President Visits with Marine Corps and Navy Families in Twentynine Palms, California
Mess Hall
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Twentynine Palms, California

President's Remarks

      In Focus: Defense

12:34 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. Sergeant Major, thanks for the introduction. It's an honor to be here. I've been really looking forward to coming to Twentynine Palms. The General told me that I'm the first President ever to have come. It's an honor to be the first President, but he also reminded me that my mother beat me to the punch. (Laughter.)

I want to share some thoughts with you right quick. One, I'm incredibly proud of the United States Marine Corps. (Applause.) You bring honor to our country. You represent the very best of America. You represent men and women who volunteer to serve during dangerous and historic times. And because of your service, we're defeating an enemy overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) Because of your service, we've liberated people from the clutches of a tyrant. And because of your service, we're laying the foundation of peace for a generation of Americans to come. These are historic times, and your service makes me incredibly proud.

And I also want to say something to your families. It's hard when your loved one is overseas. I respect your sacrifice, and want to thank you very much for your service to our country, as well. (Applause.)

Today I -- this morning I was -- had three phone calls I think that you might find of interest. I spoke to the President of Iraq, the Speaker of the Iraqi Assembly, and the Prime Minister-designate. It was a remarkable phone call. First, they expressed their deep appreciation for the United States of America and our soldiers. They understand the sacrifices that you are making on their behalf, and they are grateful for those sacrifices. And the reason why they are is because they represent the 12 million people who went to the polls in the face of incredible terrorist threats, and said, we want to be free; we desire to live in a free society.

I told them -- I said that they have awesome responsibilities to their people. They have the responsibility of improving the lives of men and women, regardless of their religious status and nature; they have responsibilities to defeat the terrorists; they have a responsibility to unite their country, and I believe they will.

The formation of this government is an important milestone toward our victory in Iraq. A lot of times people ask me about my attitude about things, and here's my attitude -- the only way we can lose in Iraq is if we lose our nerve. (Applause.) And I'm not losing my nerve, and I know that the United States Marine Corps will not lose their nerve, either. (Applause.)

Yesterday was an important day, but I recognize we still have more work to do. Democracy in Iraq will be a major blow for the terrorists who want to do us harm. Democracy in Iraq will deny them safe haven. Democracy in Iraq will set a powerful example for people in a part of the world who are desperate for freedom.

It is such an honor to be here with the mighty United States Marine Corps and their families. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless our country. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 12:39 P.M. PDT

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