WASHINGTON – President Bush took a jog Tuesday with a soldier who lost part of both legs in Iraq, following through on a bedside promise even the president had doubts about at the time.
Despite a slight drizzle, Bush and Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge took a slow jog around a spongy track that circles the White House's South Lawn. About halfway through their approximately half-mile run, Bush and Bagge paused briefly for reporters.
"He ran the president into the ground, I might add," Bush said, as the two gripped hands in an emotional, lengthy shake. "But I'm proud of you. I'm proud of your strength, proud of your character."
The president met the soldier on a New Year's Day visit to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where Bagge had been recuperating from his injuries for months. Bagge, now 23 and a native of Eugene, Ore., was in a convoy hit by roadside bombs a year ago in the remote Iraq desert south of Kirkuk.
Bagge's left leg was amputated just above the ankle, and his right leg ends just above the knee.
He told Bush during their January visit that he wanted to run with him. Bush was an avid runner who had mostly traded the activity for mountain biking in the last couple of years because of knee problems.
"I looked at him, like, you know, there's an optimistic person," Bush said. "It's an amazing sight for me to be running with a guy who, last time I saw him, was in bed wondering whether or not — I was wondering whether or not he'd ever get out of bed."
But, the president added, in tribute to the hard work Bagge did to realize this goal, "There was no doubt in his mind that he would."
"It's a privilege," commented Bagge, who had changed in the Oval Office into a special set of prosthetic legs that he uses to jog.
And then the pair took off for the remainder of their run.