Bushes visit wounded troops at Walter Reed

December 22nd, 2006

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press

Large pink signs at Bush's tennis court helipad!

President George W. Bush helps volunteers wrap presents for families of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan today at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. (EVAN VUCCI/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush presented Purple Hearts to wounded troops today at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, an annual holiday tradition of comforting soldiers that he began after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“We owe them all we can give them, not only for when they're in harm's way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service,” Bush said after visiting the wounded and presenting medals to 14 men and women in the Army, Marines and Air Force.

“Every time I come to Walter Reed, I am moved by the courage and bravery of the people I meet,” he said.

Bush and first lady Laura Bush visited 38 patients among those being treated there for injuries suffered mostly in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan. Seeing troops with amputated limbs and other serious wounds, the president asked them how they were feeling and if their care was adequate, and talked with family members and medical staff.

“It's a remarkable experience to go through the hospital,” Bush said. “It's remarkable because of the unbelievable compassion and care of the people who work at Walter Reed. And it's also remarkable to me, these men and women who have volunteered to serve our country, who've received terrible wounds, but whose spirits are strong, their resolve is strong, and their dedication to our country remains strong.”

While at Walter Reed, the president and his wife briefly joined Girl Scouts and Brownies from Maryland and Virginia who were wrapping presents for families and children of wounded military personnel.

“Looks like someone is going to get playing cards,” Bush said, while looking at some of the presents being wrapped at tables labeled “Cutting Station” and “Wrapping Station.”

“Been wrapping for a while?” he asked one girl.

Bush flew from the White House to a tennis center and then took a motorcade to Walter Reed in a steady drizzle. Near the tennis center landing zone, someone had posted large, pink signs that said: “Bush Lied, Innocents Died” and “Peace on Earth.”

From the hospital, Bush flew to Camp David, where he planned to meet on Saturday morning with new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is returning from a three-day trip to Iraq. The president will be consulting with advisers at the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains and celebrating Christmas with his family.

The day after Christmas, Bush is going to his Texas ranch where he'll rest and continue crafting a new strategy for U.S. involvement in Iraq until New Year's Day when he is scheduled to return to Washington.

Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.