By Joe ParrinoNovember 25, 2008
Fort Campbell, KY -- November 25, 2008 --Thousands of necks craned as Air Force One swooped from a blue sky to deliver President George W. Bush to a Tuesday rally in honor of Fort Campbell troops and their families.
Hangar 9 at Campbell Army Airfield was packed to capacity. Soldiers from three brigade combat teams, both combat aviation battalions, special forces and the 101st sustainment brigade heard the president thank them for their distinguished service in the war on terror.
"We are blessed to have defenders of such character and courage," Bush said.
The president also shared his gratitude to the many military family members in the crowd. Spouses clung to Soldier's arms and children sat on shoulders, still showing the emotions of recent reunions. During the last two months, approximately 10,000 Soldiers have redeployed from Iraq to Fort Campbell.
Men and women in uniform joined Bush on stage including Deputy Commanding General (Rear) Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Division Rear Detachment Commander Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk and Installation Commander Col. Fred Swope.
In 2001, Bush reminded the crowd that he spent his first Thanksgiving as president at Fort Campbell. That was only months after the Sept. 11 attacks and months before the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, the Rakkasans, became the first conventional brigade to deploy to Afghanistan.
Bush recapped the U.S. military's many exploits since those days: including the removal of the Taliban, the overthrow of Sadaam Hussein and the emergence of two new democracies in the Middle East.
Bush still stands by those decisions.
"Removing Sadaam was the right decision then-and it is the right decision today," Bush said.
The emphatic statement drew applause and flag waving.
As a farewell, Bush told the crowd he would miss them and would "always be thankful for the honor of having served as your commander-in-chief."
Spc. Julian Martinez, who returned two weeks ago with units from the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, said it was awesome for the president to show so much support for the division.
Martinez celebrated the safe return of himself and his entire company by putting on a favorite hoodie that was left at home.
Spc. Gary Loduha of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, said the visit showed the president had a heart.
Video of the Fort Campbell Soldier's rally with Bush will be shown on Channel 9 Nov. 25 at 6 p.m., Nov. 26-Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. and daily at 9 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The video will also be available on the Fort Campbell Web site beginning today at 4 p.m.