Just a political stunt? You be the judge

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 8, 2003

In this day of instant communication and 24 hour news channels,real human emotion sometimes gets lost with the talking headstrying to fill air-time on television. The following was passed onto me as a first person account of President Bush’s visit to Iraqon Thanksgiving Day.

Some have called Bush’s visit a political stunt. Was it a stuntor a leader showing concern for his troops? You be the judge.

“We knew there was a dinner planned with ambassador Bremer andLTG Sanchez.

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“There were 600 seats available, and all the units in thedivision were tasked with filling a few tables. Naturally, the501st MI battalion got our table. Soldiers were grumbling abouthaving to sit through another dog-and-pony show, so we had to picksoldiers to attend. I chose not to go.

“But, about 1500, the G2 came up to me, and with a smile, askedme to come to dinner with him and bring a camera.

“We were seated in the chow hall, which was fully-decorated forThanksgiving, when all kinds of Secret Service guys showed up. Thatwas my first clue, because Bremer’s been here before and hispersonal security detachment is not that big.

“Then BG Dempsey got up to speak, and he welcomed ambassadorBremer and LTG Sanchez. Bremer thanked us all and pulled out apiece of paper as if to give a speech. He mentioned that thePresident had given him this Thanksgiving speech to give to thetroops. He then paused and said that the senior man present shouldbe the one to give it. He then looked at Sanchez, who justsmiled.

“Bremer then said that we should probably get someone moresenior to read the speech. Then, from behind the camouflagenetting, the President of the United States came around.

“The mess hall actually erupted with hollering. Troops boundedto their feet with shocked smiles and just began cheering with alltheir hearts. The building actually shook. It was just unreal. Iwas absolutely stunned…

“Soldiers were hollering, cheering, and a lot of them werecrying. There was not a dry eye at my table. When (the President)stepped up to the cheering, I could clearly see tears running downhis cheeks.

“Here was this man, our President, (who) came all the way aroundthe world, spending 17 hours on an airplane and landing in the mostdangerous airport in the world — where a plane was shot out of thesky not six days before. (He did this) just to spend two hours withhis troops, only to get on a plane and spend another 17 hoursflying back. It was a great moment, and I will never forget it.

“He delivered his speech… then he stepped down and was justmobbed by the soldiers. He slowly worked his way all the way aroundthe chow hall and shook every last hand extended. Every soldier whowanted a photo with the President got one.

“You could tell he was really enjoying himself. It wasn’t just aphoto opportunity. This man was actually enjoying himself! Heworked his way over the course of about 90 minutes toward my sideof the room.

“He was getting closer to my table, so I went back over to myseat. As he passed and posed for photos, he looked me in the eyeand said, “How you doin’, captain?” I smiled and said “God blessyou, sir.” To which he responded “I’m proud of what you do,captain.”

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.