By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
July 2, 2008 - President Bush and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today issued messages to servicemembers and the American public ahead of the Independence Day holiday. Bush and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen paid tribute to servicemembers past and present who have answered their nation's call to duty.
"On this occasion, we pay special tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces," Bush said, "who have answered freedom's call and defended the values that make America the greatest country on earth."
The president cited the bold and courageous visionaries of two centuries ago for signing the Declaration of Independence.
"Guided by ancient and eternal truths, our forefathers proclaimed to the world that liberty was the natural right of all mankind and in doing so began one of the greatest chapters in human history," he said. "On the Fourth of July, our country commemorates the great achievements of these heroes and reaffirms its unwavering confidence in the power of freedom."
Bush credited desire for freedom as the inspiration of America's founding fathers, and said "belief in the universality of freedom" guides the United States today.
Echoing the president's praise of military members, Mullen offered gratitude to servicemembers on behalf of himself and the Joint Chiefs. He said examples are rare in U.S. history when the upcoming anniversary has fallen at so critical and dangerous a time.
"Al-Qaida has been beaten back in Iraq, but it is not defeated. The Taliban still claws for power in Afghanistan," he said. "Extremists of all kinds all over the world still plot against us, our fellow citizens, and our allies and friends.
"And yet still you serve," he continued. "Still you sacrifice."
Mullen said that as Americans everywhere celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and parades, they will do so grateful for service and sacrifice of U.S. military members.
"Wherever you are, whatever you are doing," he said, addressing servicemembers, "thank you for your service -- and that of your families -- at this critical time. Thank you for the gift of our freedom."