"We appreciate the military families who are with us tonight," he said at the end of an evening of song and comedy. "It is not easy being left behind while a loved one who goes to war. Our military families also serve our nation. And America is grateful for all of them and their support and sacrifice."
Bush and his wife, Laura, had been entertained by a slew of show business stars, including the host, "blue collar" comedian Jeff Foxworthy (search), who started off by saying what a pleasure it was for him to be performing for the leader of the free world.
"And her husband," he added to a big laugh from Mrs. Bush, who made a protracted tour of the Middle East last month.
Foxworthy noted that the event, dubbed "An American Celebration" and attended by many of Washington's power players, was not his normal crowd.
"I don't see any ballcaps or sleeves cut off," he said, peering out at the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sens. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Geena Davis and Hilary Duff were among a host of other performers that included an opera star, a magician, a former American Idol contestant and the Air Force "Singing Sergeants."
One young performer, singer Jesse McCartney, asked the president if he could dedicate a song to the first lady. After receiving permission, McCartney sang "She's No You," and continually looked down at the first lady, who mouthed, "Thank you" when he finished.
The gala was taped for ABC television and will air July 4th (search).