By Sgt. 1st Class Mark SwartJune 9, 2008
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service, June 9, 2008) - First Lady Laura Bush visited troops here Sunday during a brief stop on her third trip to Afghanistan, giving words of praise and encouragement to service members for their efforts and results in Afghanistan.
"From overseeing hospitals to responding to improvised explosive devices, your efforts are critical to our mission in Afghanistan," Mrs. Bush said. "On behalf of President Bush and a grateful nation, thank you very much for your service to the United States of America. Every day you risk your lives to protect the freedom that we hold so dear."
Bush spoke to a crowd of several hundred in a large hangar and shared a few observations about the signs of progress that she had seen in Afghanistan throughout the day.
"As you go about your daily duties, you are brining opportunity and security to the people of Afghanistan," she said.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force - 101 and International Security Assistance Force Regional Command-East, described Bush to the cheering crowd during her introduction as "someone who has been and advocate to you and has been a friend of military families for a long time."
The First Lady made a number of stops during her one-day visit to the country. She visited locations in Bamyan province, Kabul, and Bagram Air Field.
In Bamyan, Bush visited a police training center, where she met a female police trainee. The trainee told Bush that seeing Bamyan's female governor had inspired her to try out for the police force.
Bush added that the female police officer's story, as well as observing women in a classroom studying the new Afghanistan constitution, were vivid reminders "of how far this nation has come since the Taliban's reign. Women were not even allowed in school, and there was no democratic constitution to be studied."
She also visited an orphanage in Bamyan and saw a road-construction project.
"All of these encouraging stories and all of these terrific things I saw today have been made possible by your efforts, and the efforts of the U.S. military," Bush said.
Bush then met with a New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team, who greeted her with a traditional war dance, complete with spears and war paint.
"I can only imagine what the Secret Service thought, but their performance truly highlights the international makeup of security forces here in Afghanistan," she said.
Bush is scheduled to visit Paris later this week, where she said she plans to address an international conference for Afghanistan reconstruction.
Before closing, Bush took the time to thank military families for their sacrifices in support of the Afghanistan mission, telling service members "when you e-mail or call them tonight, give them our love, and tell them I know what the burden of worry is on your family members, and I understand it, and I thank them."
She then spent several minutes greeting, shaking hands and taking pictures with service members before boarding a military aircraft to her next destination.
(Sgt. 1st Class Mark Swart serves with Combined Joint Task Force-101 Public Affairs)