CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – In a morale-boosting visit, President Bush flew across the United States on Tuesday to thank Marines for their ongoing service in the fight against terrorism. And he urged all Americans during the holiday season to “find some way to thank our military and to help out the military family down the street.”
During his five-hour visit to San Diego County, Bush met privately with the families of those who died in Iraq and with Marines who were injured there. Before he landed in a helicopter at this sprawling seaside base, the president also attended a ceremony at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, where he presented a special citation to an elite, multi-service special operations task force that was created shortly after Sept. 11 and served in Afghanistan at the start of that war.
With more than 200 members of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force killed in Iraq, this military base has had more combat casualties than any other.
In his remarks, Bush warned that as the Jan. 30 Iraqi election nears, violence in that country was likely to escalate.
“You see, the terrorists understand what is at stake. They know they have no future in a free Iraq, because free people never choose their own enslavement.” Bush said. “When Iraqis choose their leaders in free elections, it will destroy the myth that the terrorists are fighting a foreign occupation and make clear that what the terrorists are really fighting is the will of the Iraqi people.”
The president urged Americans to visit a Defense Department Web site, www.americasupportsyou.mil, saying: “You can go there to learn about efforts in your own community to say you support our troops.”