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Bush calls for more sacrifice

Speaking to National Guard members, he urges patience with the war in Iraq.

By TIM CRAIG Washington Post
Published July 5, 2007


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - President Bush gave an Independence Day pep talk to West Virginia National Guard members and their families Wednesday, telling them victory in Iraq "will require more patience, more courage and more sacrifice."

The president reiterated his warning that "terrorists and extremists" would try to strike inside the United States if the military walks away from the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If we were to quit Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists we are fighting would not declare victory and lay down their arms. They would follow us here, home, " Bush told a crowd of about 1, 000 people gathered at a West Virginia Air National Guard maintenance hangar.

Bush's two-hour trip to West Virginia came as the president faces growing pressure, including from some senior Republicans on Capitol Hill, to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq.

Bush, who turns 61 on Friday, showed little sign of backing down Wednesday. He urged the American public to be patient, saying he won't withdraw troops "prematurely based on politics."

"We must succeed for our sake. For the security of our citizens, we must support the Iraqi government and we must defeat al-Qaida in Iraq, " Bush said.

The president, who was accompanied by adviser Karl Rove, began his remarks by comparing today's soldiers to those who fought in the Revolutionary War. Bush mentioned Adam Stephen, a Revolutionary War general who founded Martinsburg, a town of 16, 000 people in the panhandle of West Virginia.

"We give thanks for all the brave citizen-soldiers of our Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence, " said Bush, adding: "You're the successors of those brave men."

Bush also singled out two West Virginia Guardsmen, Staff Sgts. Brad Runkles and Derek Brown, who recently re-enlisted even though they had been badly wounded in Iraq in 2004.

"Your service is needed. We need for people to volunteer to defend America, " the president said.

The audience - which was crammed in a corner of a hangar draped with two-story-high American flags - included troops in uniform and the children, spouses, mothers and fathers of Guard members serving stateside or overseas.

Most said they are solidly behind the president, who spent 20 minutes shaking hands after his remarks, and the mission in Iraq. "I love him, and my son loves him. He gets the job done, " said Donna Ruppenthal, of Hedgesville, W.Va., whose son is serving in Iraq.

Several family members said the president's speech helped to ease their doubts about whether the war in Iraq is worth the loss of more than 3, 500 soldiers.

Others, however, remained unimpressed. "I've heard it all before, " said Patti Scott, 72, of Richmond, Va. "I just don't approve of the war."