Remarks at Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune, NC
April 3, 2003
Thank you all very much.
Thank you all so very much for that warm welcome. It's
such an honor to be here. Especially pleased to be traveling
today with a great First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.)
We really appreciate your welcome and we're proud to be
with the Marines and sailors and families of Camp Lejeune.
There's no finer sight, no finer sight, than to see 12,000
United States Marines and Corpsmen -- (applause) -- unless
you happen to be a member of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
For more than 60 years, Marines have gone forth from Camp
Lejeune to fight our country's battles. Now America has
entered a fierce struggle to protect the world from a grave
danger and to bring freedom to an oppressed people. As
the forces of our coalition advance, we learn more about
the atrocities of the Iraqi regime and the deep fear that
Saddam Hussein has instilled in the Iraqi people. Yet,
no scheme of this enemy, no crime of a dying regime will
divert us from our mission. We will not stop until Iraq
is free. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, President Bush!. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: When freedom needs defending, America turns
to our military. And as they do their job, our men and
women in uniform count on their families -- like you all
here today. This is a time of hardship for many military
families. Some of you have been separated from your loved
ones for quite a while because of long deployments. All
of America is grateful for your sacrifice. And Laura and
I are here to thank each one of you. (Applause.)
We're here to thank the Marines. (Applause.) I also want
to thank the men and women of the Marine Forces Reserve
who are serving here and abroad. (Applause.) Hundreds of
reserve units across America have been activated in this
time of war, and our country thanks these fine citizens
and their employers for putting duty first.
I want to thank Major General David Mize for his hospitality
and his leadership. I want to thank Major General John
Castelaw, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary
Force, for his leadership and strength. (Applause.) I appreciate
so very much members of the North Carolina congressional
delegation who traveled with Laura and me today -- Senators
Edwards and Dole, from the great state of North Carolina,
thank you for coming. (Applause.)
I appreciate members of the United States House of Representatives
-- Congressmen Balance, Jones and McIntyre -- for traveling
with us. These five are five members of the Congress are
strong supporters of the Marines and the United States
I met the Mayor and I want to thank Madam Mayor and members
of the County Commission for being so supportive of the
families and the personnel here at Camp Lejeune, North
Carolina. I want to thank very much those veterans who
are here, and retired military members. (Applause.) I want
to thank Lone Star. (Applause.) We kind of like that name.
I very much want to say a little something about a person
that Laura and I met at Marine One when it landed, Laura
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
THE PRESIDENT: You may know Laura -- somebody knows Laura
Kay out there. (Laughter.) But you need to know her story.
You see, Laura Kay is Director of Volunteer Services at
the YMCA Camp Lejeune. She represents hundreds, thousands
of people who volunteer to make somebody's life better.
She runs a Mom-to-Mom program to help people who may need
help. Laura Kay represents the best of America, somebody
who is willing to love a neighbor just like she'd like
to be loved herself.
I want to thank Laura Kay. I want to thank the thousands
of you who are here who understand we can save somebody's
life by showing them love. We can help somebody who hurts
by hugging a neighbor in need. (Applause.)
All around Camp Lejeune are monuments to the heroic achievements
of the United States Marines. In the 14 days since the
major ground war began, the Marine Corps has added new
achievements to its great story. (Applause.)
On the first day of the campaign, Marine units were ordered
to secure 600 Iraqi oil wells and prevent environmental
disaster. And that mission was accomplished. (Applause.)
U.S. Marines and our Royal Marine allies were sent in to
take the Al Faw Peninsula and clear a path for humanitarian
aid, and that job was done. (Applause.)
In the tough fighting at Al Nasiriyah, Marines continue
to push back the enemy, and are showing the unrelenting
courage worthy of the name Task Force Tarawa. (Applause.)
Two nights ago, Marines and Special Operations forces set
out on a daring rescue mission -- and thanks to their skill
and courage, a brave young soldier is now free. (Applause.)
These missions are difficult and they are dangerous, but
no one becomes a Marine because it's easy. (Applause.)
Now our coalition moves forward. Marines are in the thick
of the battle. And what we have begun, we will finish.
The United States and our allies pledged to act if the
dictator did not disarm. The regime in Iraq is now learning
that we keep our word. (Applause.) By our actions, we serve
a great and just cause: We will remove weapons of mass
destruction from the hands of mass murderers. Free nations
will not sit and wait, leaving enemies free to plot another
September the 11th, this time, perhaps with chemical or
biological or nuclear terror. And by defending our own
security, we are freeing the people of Iraq from one of
the cruelest regimes on Earth. (Applause.)
At this hour, coalition forces are clearing southern cities
and towns of the dictator's death squads and enforcers.
Our Special Forces and Army paratroopers, working with
Kurdish militia, have opened a northern front against the
enemy. Army and Marine divisions are engaging the enemy
and advancing to the outskirts of Baghdad. (Applause.)
From the skies above, coalition aircraft and Cruise missiles
are removing hundreds of military targets from Iraq. A
vice is closing, and the days of a brutal regime are coming
to an end. (Applause.)
Some servants of the regime have chosen to fill their
final days with acts of cowardice and murder. In combat,
Saddam's thugs shield themselves with women and children.
They have killed Iraqi citizens who welcome coalition troops.
They force other Iraqis into battle, by threatening to
torture or kill their families. They've executed prisoners
of war. They've waged attacks under the white flag of truce.
They concealed combat forces in civilian neighborhoods
and schools and hospitals and mosques.
In this war, the Iraqi regime is doing -- is terrorizing
its own citizens, doing everything possible to maximize
Iraqi civilian casualties, and then to exploit the deaths
they've caused for propaganda. These are war criminals
and they will be treated like war criminals. (Applause.)
In stark contrast, the citizens of Iraq are coming to
know what kind of people we have sent to liberate them.
American forces and our allies are treating innocent civilians
with kindness, and showing proper respect to soldiers who
surrender. Many Americans have seen the picture of Marine
Lance Corporal Marcco Ware carrying a wounded Iraqi soldier
on his shoulders to safety, for medical treatment. That's
the picture of the strength and goodness of the U.S. Marines.
(Applause.) That is a picture of America. (Applause.) People
in the United States are proud of the honorable conduct
of our military, and I'm proud to lead such brave and decent
I'm also proud that coalition victories are bringing food
and water and medicine to the Iraqi people. Our coalition
partners have constructed a pipeline to bring clean water
to Umm Qasr. We're delivering emergency rations to the
hungry. Right now, ships carrying enough American grain
to feed millions are bound for Iraq. We're bringing aid,
and we're bringing something more -- we're bringing hope.
A man in one Iraqi village said this to one of our soldiers: "I
want my freedom. I don't want food or water. I just want
my freedom." America hears that man. We hear all Iraqis
who yearn for liberty. And the people of Iraq have my pledge:
Our fighting forces will press on until your entire country
is free. (Applause.)
The Iraqi people deserve to live in peace under leaders
they have chosen. They deserve a government that respects
the rights of every citizen and ethnic group. They deserve
a country that is united, that's independent, and that
is released from years of sanctions and sorrow. Our coalition
has one goal for the future of Iraq -- to return that great
country to it's own people. (Applause.)
Building a free and prosperous Iraq after the regime is
gone will require -- will be the work of the Iraqi people
for years to come. And they will have our help. Today the
goal is to remove the Iraqi regime and to rid Iraq of weapons
of mass destruction. And that is the task of the United
States military and our coalition.
All who serve in this mission can know this: Your fellow
citizens are behind you and our government will give you
every tool you need for victory. (Applause.)
People of this country take pride in your victories, and
we share in your losses. Camp Lejeune has lost some good
Marines. Every person who dies in the line of duty leaves
a family that lives in grief. Every Marine who dies in
the line of duty leaves comrades who mourn their loss.
There is a tradition in the Corps that no one who falls
will be left behind on the battlefield. (Applause.) Our
country has a tradition, as well. No one who falls will
be forgotten by this grateful nation. We honor their service
to America and we pray their families will receive God's
comfort and God's grace. (Applause.)
These are sacrifices in a high calling -- the defense
of our nation and the peace of the world. Overcoming evil
is the noblest cause and the hardest work. And the liberation
of millions is the fulfillment of America's founding promise.
The objectives we've set in this war are worthy of America,
worthy of all the acts of heroism and generosity that have
Once again, we are applying the power of our country to
ensure our security and to serve the cause of justice.
And we will prevail. (Applause.)
Our Armed Services have performed brilliantly in Operation
Iraqi Freedom. Moving a massive force over 200 miles of
enemy territory in a matter of days is a superb achievement.
Yet there is work ahead for our coalition, for the American
Armed Forces, and for the United States Marines. Having
traveled hundreds of miles, we will now go the last 200
yards. (Applause.) The course is set. We're on the advance.
Our destination is Baghdad, and we will accept nothing
less than complete and final victory. (Applause.)
May God bless our country and all who defend her. Semper
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