WASHINGTON – President Bush said Friday he was moved by his visit to the bedsides of injured troops, an annual pre-Christmas tradition of comforting soldiers that he began after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
At the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bush and first lady Laura Bush visited 38 patients among those being treated there for injuries suffered mostly in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan. Seeing troops with amputated limbs and other serious wounds, the president asked them how they were feeling and if their care was adequate, and talked with family members and medical staff, said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
While there, the president awarded 16 Purple Hearts to 14 personnel.
"These men and women who have volunteered to serve our country have received terrible wounds but their spirits are strong, resolve is strong," Bush said.
While at Walter Reed, the president and his wife briefly joined Girl Scouts from Maryland and Virginia and children of hospital staff to wrap and sort Christmas presents for families and children of wounded military personnel.
From the hospital, Bush was heading for Camp David, where he planned to remain with his family until he goes to his Texas ranch the day after Christmas.
New Defense Secretary Robert Gates, due back Friday night from a three-day Iraq trip, was meeting with Bush on Saturday at Camp David to talk about what he learned during consultations there with military officials, troops and Iraqi leaders.