The commander-in-chief of the United States military, President George W. Bush, landed at Hunter Army Airfield just after 9am this morning. Twenty people were afforded the honor of personally greeting President Bush as he stepped off Air Force One. Volunteers from the USO, Southern Smiles, and the Red Cross waited as he shook their hands and thanked them for their service during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I was honored and privileged as commander here to be able to greet the commander-in-chief," said LTC Jeffrey Goble. "Saluting the President in person was something I'll never forget."
WTOC's vice president and general manager, Bill Cathcart, was one of those selected to meet the President this morning.
After shaking hands, the President boarded Marine One and headed out to address the troops at Fort Stewart. He told those troops to be proud and our enemies to be worried. Bush delivered to Gen. Buford Blount the Presidential Unit Citation for the Third Infantry Division's valor in Iraq. In his praise, he borrowed a line from the Sergeant Major of the Army.
"Be proud, stand up straight. You made history," quoted Bush. "As commander-in-chief, I second those words. You made history. You made our nation proud."
He acknowledged the strain war put on soldiers and their families dealing with modern terrorism. "America saw the face of a new adversary, an enemy that plots in secret, that rejects the rules of war, an enemy that rejoices in the murder of the innocent."
But that enemy, he said, is falling. Two thirds of al Qaeda is captured or killed as well as 42 of Iraq's 55 most wanted. The Third Infantry has helped rebuild schools, hospitals and lift the hand of oppression off the Iraqi people.
The president's visit is two years and a day after the attack on America. He said the country will remember those who lost their lives September 11, the soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq and those who served there to defend this country. "Our whole country has been reminded that we can never take our military for granted," Bush said. "I will keep our military strong."
To thunderous applause, he told the soldiers in the fight between civilization and chaos, there is no neutral ground.
After speaking at Fort Stewart, President Bush boarded Marine One for the short flight back to Hunter. Once he landed, he wasted no time boarding Air Force One and heading to Jackson, Mississippi. From there, his itinerary had him heading to Houston, Texas, before going on to Camp David.