Granting little "Katie" the opportunity to live a peaceful life, President Bush issued the traditional pardon of a turkey Tuesday in a Rose Garden annual tradition.

"And now as we look to our national day of Thanksgiving I have the honor to carry out an important presidential tradition. The bird's name is Katie ... It's a fine-looking turkey," Bush said of the all-white bird who hid behind the display table for most of the event.

This was the 56th consecutive turkey pardon, a tradition that got its start in the Civil War.

During the pardon, the president also took a moment to reflect on war and the men and women fighting for U.S. freedom on this year's day of thanks.

"Americans have always been a grateful people. We are grateful for our freedom, we are grateful for our families, we are grateful for our beautiful country. Each year at Thanksgiving, we gather in that spirit to count our blessings and to share those blessings with families and others," the president said.

Bush, who was nipped during last year's turkey pardon, displayed more caution in petting the lucky bird this time around. Rather than stroke the turkey right away, Bush held on to the wrist of Ron Prestage, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, before gingerly touching the feathered fowl himself.

For the first time, the pardoned turkey was a female. Katie, who was supplied by the National Turkey Federation and named after Prestage's daughter, hails from Clinton, N.C., and will spend the rest of her years at a petting zoo in Herndon, Va.

"There she will live out her days as safe and comfortable as she can be," the president said before inviting up a dozen kids at the event to pet the mild-mannered fowl.