By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 18, 2007 - President Bush praised contributions made by military support groups and veterans organizations at a morning gathering on the White House's South Lawn today. "I want to thank the service organizations and those who have come together to support our families and our troops," said Bush, who was accompanied by first lady Laura Bush and a group of senior administration officials that included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson, Army Secretary Pete Geren, Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter, and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Vets for Freedom, Blue Star Mothers, Gold Star Mothers and other groups are among organizations that "have come together to support our families and our troops," Bush observed.
Some of the groups represented at the White House gathering are supporters of America Supports You, the nationwide, Defense Department-launched program that recognizes citizens' support for military men and women and communicates that support to members of the armed forces at home and abroad.
"It's important people hear from you," Bush told the groups, noting that he appreciates their grassroots support for the military and its overseas mission to fight terrorism.
Bush said he's committed to success in Iraq and supports recommendations made by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq. The president said continued success should enable future troop reductions.
"Inherent in (Petraeus') recommendations is, one, his belief we're succeeding, his belief we will succeed, and I ask the United States Congress to support the troop levels and the strategies I have embraced," Bush said.
A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq now would embolden America's enemies, Bush said.
"If we were to retreat from the Middle East, the enemy would not be content to remain where they are, but they would follow us here," Bush said.
The seeds of liberty planted in Iraq will grow, he predicted. Democracy, which provides people hope and illumination as opposed to the extremists' dark, twisted vision, will spread across the Middle East.
"And we recognize that liberty is powerful, that liberty will yield the peace that we want for generations to come," Bush explained. This generation of Americans "did the hard work now," he said, "so that future generations could live in security and peace."
The commander in chief saluted today's military members serving worldwide "for wearing the uniform of the greatest country on the face of the earth." He also praised military veterans of the past "for volunteering in the face of danger."
The president also welcomed "the families who have got a loved one overseas, whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan, fighting these extremists and terrorists."
The administration supports the volunteer military in the fight against terrorism, Bush said, by supporting initiatives that provide better pay, housing and health care for America's servicemembers and their families.
The president reached out to family members who've lost a loved one during the war against terrorism.
"Our hearts go out to you. We love you. The best way to honor the sacrifices that your loved one made, as well as the sacrifice you have made, is to accomplish the mission, is to achieve the peace."