Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Bush Surprises Departing Troops With Gift -- Himself 

Bush Surprises Departing Troops With Gift -- Himself

Most of the soldiers, dressed in desert camouflage fatigues, had cameras ready to take snapshots of Bush. The president, who donned a tie and suit jacket after his political rally, offered gentle smiles and words such as "I'm proud of you" and "thank you."

The charter plane carrying the soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., was scheduled to stop in Germany and Kuwait before the soldiers made their way into Iraq with their units: the 30th Brigade Combat Team, a Guard unit from North Carolina; the 414th Transportation Battalion, a reserve unit from South Carolina; the 230th, from Tennessee; and a few others.

Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Dailey, a FedEx worker normally, was asked if the boisterous reception meant these were all Bush supporters. "We're commander-in-chief supporters," he clarified, and pointed out: "It ain't every day you land somewhere and the president gets on your plane."

As it happens, the troops were given absentee ballots just before they departed, and there were still some undecided voters on board as Bush worked the crowd. "I'm still balancing the issues. I'm not sure," said David Spence of the 230th, a machinist, when asked about the election. "I'd like to hear what he has to say."

But 2nd Lt. Roxana Pagan-Sanchez, of the 30th, pronounced herself solidly with Bush after she got to meet the president. "He told me he's proud of me," said the mother of a 12-year-old she left behind in Raleigh, N.C. "I'm so proud of him."

Moments later, the president departed for Washington, and the troops continued their journey to Iraq.


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