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Donna Miles - American Forces Press Service
President George W. Bush said this morning he's had no higher honor during his eight years as president than serving as commander in chief to the "brave patriots" of the U.S. military.
The president dedicated his next-to-last weekly radio address to praising the "selflessness and courage" of U.S. military men and women he credits with helping ensure no terrorist attacks have threatened the country since Sept. 11, 2001.
Bush, who made his official farewell speech to the military earlier this week during a ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., said he and first Lady Laura Bush "will take with us many inspiring memories of the valor that we have seen these brave Americans display time and again" when they leave the White House.
"We saw their valor on September the 11th, 2001, in servicemembers rushing into smoke-filled corridors to save their colleagues at the Pentagon, and in planes patrolling the skies above New York City and Washington D.C.," he said.
"We saw their valor in the days after that attack, when Americans crowded into recruiting centers across our country, raised their hands to serve, and pledged to defend our people and our freedom.
"We saw their valor in the forces who deployed to Afghanistan within weeks of 9/11, closed down the terrorist training camps, and drove the Taliban from power.
"We saw their valor in the fearless troops who stormed across the Iraqi desert –- and destroyed a regime that threatened America.
"We saw their valor in battle-tested warriors who signed up for a second, or third or fourth tour -- and made the troop surge in Iraq that I announced two years ago today one of the great successes in American military history."
As the U.S. military liberated more than 50 million people around the world, it also the United States safer by taking the fight to terrorists abroad, the president said. This, he said, helped ensure that Americans did not have to face them at home.
As a result, no terrorist attack has taken place on U.S. soil in the seven years since Sept. 11, 2001.
"This is no coincidence," Bush said. He noted the vast effort that has made this possible, through tireless work by the military, law enforcement officials, security analysts and homeland security agents, among others.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to all of these patriots," the president said. "Because of their devotion to service, many Americans live their lives without the fear and uncertainty that they felt in the days just after 9/11."
Bush called this continued safety a blessing, but emphasized that it must never foster complacency. "America still faces sworn enemies intent on striking our nation and our people, and we must remain vigilant for as long as that threat remains," he said.
The president praised the men in women in uniform who have remained vigilant. "These Americans answer the call to defend freedom when it is under attack. They put their lives on the line to defend democracy and keep our country safe," he said.
"And they inspire a nation with their selflessness and their courage. I am proud to have served as their commander-in-chief."