WASHINGTON – President Bush extended the Thanksgiving holiday for a couple of days, urging Americans on Saturday to be grateful for troops who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and for those who lose their lives.
"Giving thanks has been an American tradition from the beginning," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "We are grateful to all our men and women in uniform who are spending this holiday weekend far from their families. We keep them in our thoughts and prayers. And we especially remember those who have given their lives in our nation's defense."
Bush recalled the story of Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL whom the president posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in October. In 2005 in Afghanistan, Murphy exposed himself to deadly enemy fire on the battlefield in order to make a desperate call for help for his elite combat team.
"This weekend, we give thanks for the blessings of young Americans like Lt. Michael Murphy, who risk their own lives to keep us safe," the president said.
Bush also noted the contribution of others such as police officers, firefighters, emergency responders and community volunteers who "serve a cause larger than themselves."
"While we were enjoying our Thanksgiving turkeys, tens of thousands of these men and women were on the job," he said.
In the Democrats' weekly radio address, retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said he supports legislation that calls for most troops to come home within a year. Sanchez was the top commander in Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad.
This month, the House passed a $50 billion bill that would pay for combat operations but sets the goal that combat end by Dec. 15, 2008. The White House threatened to veto the measure, and Senate Republicans blocked it from passing.
"The improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country," Sanchez said. He said the Democratic-sponsored House bill "makes the proper preparation of our deploying troops a priority and requires the type of shift in their mission that will allow their numbers to be reduced substantially."