Fort Campbell, Ky. (Army News Service, Nov. 26, 2008) -- Thousands of necks craned as Air Force One swooped down from a blue sky to deliver President George W. Bush to a Nov. 25 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 Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, deputy commanding general (rear); Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, division rear detachment commander; and Col. Fred Swope, installation commander.

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 Saddam Hussein and the emergence of two new democracies in the Middle East.

Bush still stands by those decisions.

"Removing Saddam 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."

(Joe Parrino writes for Fort Campbell Public Affairs)