President Bush saluted the nation's veterans Tuesday, saying he'll “miss being the commander in chief of such a fabulous group.”
Bush marked his last Veterans Day as president at a New York pier, speaking to a crowd of thousands bundled against the November chill for the rededication ceremony of the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
Bush praised veterans in the crowd, including those who served aboard the Intrepid in its long history of military action.
“Today we send a clear message to all who have worn the uniform: Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most,” said Bush, who will soon turn over to President-elect Obama the responsibility for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama has vowed to remove troops from Iraq and increase troops in Afghanistan.
He honored fallen troops Tuesday by placing a wreath at a memorial in Chicago and making a pledge to the many Americans who have served in the military.
“Let us rededicate ourselves to keep a sacred trust with all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America: that America will serve you as well as you have served your country,” he said in a statement. “As your next commander in chief, I promise to work every single day to keep that sacred trust with all who have served.”
Vice President Dick Cheney marked the day by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Bush spoke in the shadow of the Intrepid and near the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan.
Astronauts Scott Carpenter and Buzz Aldrin helped the president toss a wreath into the Hudson River as a bugler played taps.
The Intrepid returned last month to the pier where it has served for 24 years as a military and space museum, a perennially popular tourist site in New York. In late 2006, the carrier was moved for extensive repairs and improvements costing nearly $120 million.