Operation Iraqi Freedom at Camp Lejeune
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
April 3, 2003
10:40 A.M. EST
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. (Applause.)
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 military. (Applause.)
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. (Laughter.)
I very much want to say a little something about a person that Laura and
I met at Marine One when it landed, Laura Kay Brett.
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 Americans. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
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.
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
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 come before.
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 fi. (Applause.)