Bush Remembers U.S. Troops on Third Anniversary of OIF

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2006  - The best way for Americans to commemorate the third anniversary of U.S. operations in Iraq is to thank the servicemembers carrying them out and the families that support them, President Bush said today.

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Bush called today, three years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a time for reflection. "And this morning, my reflections were upon the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform," he said.

"Ours is an amazing nation, where thousands have volunteered to serve our country.... Many volunteered after 9/11, knowing full well at the time that their time in the military could put them in harm's way," the president said.

"So on this third anniversary, the beginning of the liberation of Iraq, I think all Americans should offer thanks to the men and women who wear the uniform, and their families who support them," he said. "May God continue to bless our troops in harm's way."

Bush said he was encouraged by a conversation this morning with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who he said reported progress the Iraqis are making in forming a unity government.

"I encourage the Iraqi leaders to continue to work hard to get this government up and running," the president said. He noted that about 75 percent of eligible Iraqi citizens went to the polls last December to vote for democracy. "And now the Iraqi leaders are working together to enact a government that reflects the will of the people," he said.

Bush said he's optimistic about the coalition mission in Iraq and long-term impact it will have, not only on Iraq, but also the United States.

"We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq," the president said. "And a victory in Iraq will make this country more secure, and it will help lay the foundation for peace for generations to come."

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