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Whiteman members attend presidential speech

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than 10 members of Team Whiteman, dressed in either the desert uniform or the new Airmen Battle Uniform, were invited by the Veteran's of Foreign Wars to attend a speech by President George Bush at the Kansas City Convention Center Aug. 22.

President Bush spoke about the current progress in Iraq and the future of the United States' role there.

"I stand before you as a wartime president," he said. "I wish I didn't have to say that, but an enemy that attacked us on September 11, 2001, declared war on the United States of America. And war is what we are engaged in."

The president also discussed the importance of the men and women who previously, currently and in the future will serve in the military.

Veterans deserve the full support of the United States government, President Bush added.

The president submitted in his budget plan $87 billion for veterans, the highest level in American history.

"Health care for our veterans is a top priority, and that's why we've increased health care spending for our veterans by 83 percent since I was sworn in as your president."

"A troop coming out of Iraq or Afghanistan deserves the best health care -- not only as an active duty citizen, but as a military guy... but as a veteran. And you're going to get the best health care we can possibly provide."

President Bush drew comparisons between the current war in Iraq and the struggles of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

Following the end of World War II, many critics, both American and Japanese, said that Japan wasn't ready for a democracy, President Bush said. The same was true for South Korea.

"(Japan) has transformed from America's enemy in the ideological struggle of the 20th century to one of America's strongest allies in the ideological struggle of the 21st century," the president said.

"South Korea is a strong, democratic ally of the United States of America," he added. "South Korean troops are serving side-by-side with American forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq."

President Bush used Vietnam as an example of what could happen if U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq.

There were many arguments that if the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

"The world would learn just how costly these impressions would be," President Bush said. Instead, thousands more died from starvation, torture and execution, he said.

One of the Whiteman members in attendance at the VFW conference reflected on the president's historical comparisons.

"I think his point basically was that we pulled out (of Vietnam) and shouldn't have," said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Portell, 442nd Fighter Wing. "Worse things happened when we did.

"To pull out now, with all the losses we have suffered, would be for nothing," Sergeant Portell said.

President Bush stated that to withdraw from Iraq before the job is done would only empower terrorist forces, increase their recruitment and allow them to follow us home.

"And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America," the president said.