WASHINGTON – President Bush rolled out the White House red carpet Monday for the two American aid workers rescued Nov. 15 after three months in an Afghan prison.
Heather Mercer, 24, and Dayna Curry, 30, were held with six other aid workers for preaching Christianity, a capital offense during the era of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. They were released as the city of Kabul fell from Taliban rule.
At the White House Monday, Bush said faith played a large role in the workers' rescue.
"It's a wonderful story about prayer, about a faith that can sustain people in good times and in bad times. Their faith was a source of hope that kept them from becoming discouraged," Bush said.
He also thanked the military for their part in the rescue mission, accomplished 12 days ago when Northern Alliance soldiers working with the United States military got the women out of Kabul and to a nearby field where U.S. Marines picked them up.
"In my speech to the United States Congress, I said that ... one of the objectives was to release the humanitarian aid workers that were being detained against their will. We've achieved that objective and I want to thank our military for rescuing these girls and I want to thank those on the ground in Afghanistan who helped with their rescue as well."
Mercer and Curry also spoke briefly to reporters. They thanked supporters, including family and friends, worshippers who prayed for them, the military and the president, who is known for his deep, personal faith.
"I just want to also thank our president. During our time in prison we prayed almost daily for our nation's government and for the president and we are so honored to be part of a country that has such a man of God and such a wonderful leader serving our nation," Mercer said.
The meeting also gave Bush a chance to answer reporters' questions and repeat his charge that the United States will continue to pursue terrorists wherever they may hide.
He did not specifically mention Iraq, but said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should let weapons inspectors back into the country to prove Iraq is not pursuing weapons procurement.
Mercer and Curry flew into Washington Sunday night. They have been on a spiritual retreat in Germany since their release. A homecoming celebration is planned for Dec. 7-8 at Antioch Community Church near Waco, Texas, where the two attended Baylor University.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.