|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 4, 2006
Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Troops
Fort Hood, Texas
9:43 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much, and General Odierno -- it's all right; don't hold back. (Laughter.) Thank you for the introduction and thank you all for the welcome. It's always beautiful in the Hill and Lake Country, and I'm honored to stand with the soldiers and families of the Great Place in Fort Hood, Texas.
I want to thank General Fil, Colonel Anderson, Command Sergeant Major Ciotola, and everyone who helped out in arranging our visit. Thanks as well to the fine musicians of the 1st Cavalry Division Band. And nothing turns out a crowd like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. (Oo-hah.) We may have to repeat this event in a few places I can think of. (Laughter.) We want to thank you all.
Fort Hood is in the 31st congressional district. And the local congressman, a great friend of the military, is with us here today, Congressman John Carter. (Applause.)
But above all, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank the soldiers of three great American military units: Three Corps, the 4th Infantry Division, and the 1st Cavalry Division. (Applause.)
In the five years since our nation was attacked, men and women from Fort Hood have served on many fronts in the global war on terror. You've trained America's warriors and sent them forth to confront America's enemies. You've tested new equipment and systems, and moved them quickly into the hands of war fighters. The dangers have been many, the duties have been hard, and your performance has been superb.
You've proven time and time again that you know how to take the fight to the enemy and get the job done right. So I am honored to be in your presence today, and I bring good wishes to each and every one of you from our Commander-in-Chief, your neighbor from McLennan County, Texas, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
This nation is grateful to the unit that leads Fort Hood with such tremendous pride and skill, the Army's Three Corps. You've provided training and leadership for some of America's most important combat power in the global war on terror. You've shown your capabilities, and you've earned our highest confidence. America thanks the men and women of the "Phantom Corps".
This nation is grateful to the 4th Infantry Division. The 4th I.D. is nearing completion of a second tour in Iraq, where it's already made history. This was the division that played a central role in the capture of Saddam Hussein. And thanks to our country, that cruel dictator went from a palace to a spider hole to a jail cell. (Applause.)
In the current year, soldiers of the 4th I.D. have conducted hundreds of thousands of patrols from Baghdad to Karbala to Najaf. You've fought hard and reflected tremendous credit on the uniform and on the country. America thanks the men and women of the "Ironhorse Division." (Applause.)
This nation is grateful to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Brave Rifles". (Oo-hah.) A year ago, this unit was on the ground in Tal Afar, Iraq, a base of operations for the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi. By your bravery and persistence, you helped retake that city. The mayor of Tal Afar, himself, put it best: "The men and women of the 3rd ACR," he said, "changed the city of Tal Afar from a ghost town in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life."
I've been told the story of one of the warriors in Tal Afar, Sergeant 1st Class Gary Villalobos, who is here with us today. (Applause.) He and Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Crowe were on a joint operation with an Iraqi platoon when they came under heavy attack. Moments later, moving down an alleyway, they were ambushed, and Colonel Crowe was shot several times. Sergeant Villalobos returned fire, called in armor support, and moved in and evacuated Colonel Crowe. Gary Villalobos now wears a Silver Star for gallantry, and he carries the respect and the admiration of us all. (Applause.)
This nation is grateful to the 1st Cavalry Division. (Oo-hah.) Members of this unit have carried out an incredible range of assignments, from duty in Baghdad, to election security, to earthquake relief in Pakistan, to hurricane response on the Gulf Coast of the United States.
We know this Division as the First Team -- and your spirit is embodied in three members in particular. First Sergeant Allen Mouton, First Sergeant Michael Mouton, and Sergeant Reginald Mouton will deploy to Iraq once again this fall. Allen is a tanker; Michael is a mechanic, and Reginald is a medic. Together, the Mouton brothers, who are here today, have a combined 53 years wearing the uniform of the United States Army. (Applause.) We admire their devotion to family and to country.
I also want to express the nation's gratitude to the many others from Fort Hood that have done so much to defend this nation in a time of war. We're grateful to the 13th Corps Support Command --(applause) -- for providing critical logistical support in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we're grateful for the vital and careful work of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, the Trusted Agent of the Soldier.(Oo-hah.)
They're sitting over there next to the cheerleaders. (Laugher.)
Each time I visit a military base I come away with renewed confidence in the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States. Each one of you has dedicated yourself to serving our country and its ideals, and you are meeting that commitment during a very challenging time in American history.
A few weeks ago this nation marked five years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. And the observances that day took the whole country back to the emotions of 9/11. Thinking about September 11th still moves all of us, because the attack was directed at all of us. We were meant to take it personally, and we still do take it personally.
The enemy also took note of the 5th anniversary of 9/11. For the terrorists, it was a day for rejoicing, for celebrating once again the suffering and death of 3,000 innocent men, women, and children. The terrorists didn't know the people they killed. They didn't know their names or what they did for a living. They just knew these unsuspecting people were in America, and that was enough to kill them all.
This year bin Laden's second-in-command used the anniversary to issue more words of hatred for our country and more threats of murder. And once again, all of us were reminded of the kind of enemies we face. The terrorists recognize no rule of warfare and accept no standard of morality. They have declared their intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. Their prime targets are the United States and the American people, and so we have a responsibility to lead in this fight.
The terrorists regard the entire world as a battlefield. That is why al-Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. They want to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat -- and bin Laden, himself, calls this conflict the third world war. Americans are fighting there, and in Afghanistan, because our security demands it. Having liberated those countries from tyranny, we will not permit new dictatorships to rise up and pose a danger to the United States and other free nations.
Some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway. The reality is that terrorists were at war with our country long before the liberation of Iraq, and long before the attacks of 9/11. And for many years, they were the ones on the offensive.
They grew bolder in their belief that if they killed Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 service members; thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers; thereafter, United States forces withdrew from Somalia.
Over time, the terrorists concluded that they could strike America without paying a price -- because they did, repeatedly: the bombing at the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; the murders at the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous attack on two of our embassies in East Africa in 1998; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
Believing they could strike us with impunity and that if they killed enough of us they could change our policy, they attacked us on 9/11, here in the homeland, and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens. They are making a stand now in Iraq, testing our resolve, and we have a lot of difficult work still ahead. But if we have learned anything from modern experience, it is this: The only way to protect this country against terrorism is to stay on the offensive, to pursue the enemy until there is no place left to hide, and to stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)
As terrorists wage their attacks, they know they cannot beat us in a stand-up fight; they never have. But they are absolutely convinced they can break the will of the American people. And the only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission, but the world can have confidence in the resolve of the United States. We will stand by our friends. We will help Iraqis build a nation that is free, secure, and able to defend itself. We will confront our enemies on this and every other front in the war on terror. And with good allies at our side, we will prevail. (Applause.)
As members of the United States military, all of you are part of a team that is making history, removing threats to America and other free nations, and bringing new hope to a troubled region of the world. In the broader Middle East and beyond, America will continue to encourage free markets, democracy, and tolerance because these are the ideas and aspirations that overcome violence and turn societies to the pursuits of peace. And as the people of that region experience new hope, progress, and control over their own destiny, we will see the power of freedom to change our world, and a terrible threat will be removed from the lives of our children and our grandchildren.
The mission of the United States and our coalition will continue to change as necessary, as it has from the beginning. And all Americans can be certain -- any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
I realize that at times you may wonder if your fellow citizens truly realize the extent of your achievements -- how hard you've worked, how urgent and dangerous your business can be, how it feels to go out on long shifts in unfamiliar places far from home. I want you to know that Americans do realize it, and we are grateful. This is not a country that takes its military for granted.
We are a democracy defended by volunteers, who deserve all the tools and all the support we can possibly provide. Americans appreciate our fellow citizens who go out on long deployments and endure the hardship of separation from home and family. We care about those who have returned with injuries and who face a hard road ahead. And our nation grieves for the brave men and women whose lives have ended in freedom's cause. No one can take away the sorrow that has come to the families of the fallen. We can only say, with complete certainty, that these Americans served in a noble and a necessary cause, and we will honor their memory forever. (Applause.) We will honor their sacrifice by completing the mission. (Applause.)
We appreciate our military families, as well. I was struck by a recent comment made by General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said that military families, "serve this country equally well as anyone who has ever worn the uniform." (Applause.) "They sit silently at home and pray for their loved one, wait for news of their return and then silently stand back and pretend they had nothing to do with our success, whereas, in fact, it is the love and support of our families that makes all the difference in the world." (Applause.)
I know that General Pace's words speak for all of you. And I want you to know that our whole nation is filled with respect and gratitude for our military families.
Recently I learned the story of Staff Sergeant Mitchell Caldwell, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th I.D. Earlier this year, Sergeant Caldwell and his platoon surprised a group of terrorists and came under heavy automatic-weapons fire. While redirecting his soldiers to engage the enemy, Sergeant Caldwell was wounded -- shot through both forearms -- but he kept fighting through the ambush. His platoon suppressed fire and destroyed a good number of the enemy.
Hours later, as doctors readied him for a flight to an Army hospital, Sergeant Caldwell remembered that he'd been scheduled to re-enlist that very day, and he told a superior that he wanted to re-enlist before he left Iraq. That night, as the platoon stood at attention, this wounded American soldier proudly took the oath and re-enlisted. Mitchell Caldwell's fighting spirit is an inspiration to every person who wears the uniform. (Applause.)
The 4th Infantry Division has a motto: Steadfast and Loyal. And this country is so fortunate to have those virtues represented each and every day throughout that Division, indeed, throughout Fort Hood, and throughout the United States Army. Your performance in challenging conditions, not just the progress you've made but the character you've shown, has left a lasting impression up and down the chain of command.
We're a nation that keeps its word, so we'll carry on in the work that is ours to do. The United States of America is a good country, a generous, compassionate, idealistic country. We are doing honorable work in a messy and dangerous world. By defending ourselves, by standing with our friends abroad, we're meeting our responsibilities as freedom's home and defender, and we are securing the peace that freedom brings.
More than that, ladies and gentlemen, we are showing the world that the people who wear the uniform of the United States are men and women of skill and perseverance, decency and honor. Standing here today, in the heart of Texas, I want to thank you for the vital work you do, and for your daily example of service and character. It is a privilege to be in your presence today. The U.S. Army at war is the finest army ever fielded, and we're extremely proud of each and every one of you.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 10:01 A.M. CDT