[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: GEORGE W. BUSH (2001, Book I)]
[February 14, 2001]
[Pages 84-86]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to National Guard Personnel and Reservists in Charleston
February 14, 2001

    The President. Thank you all. Sit down, please. Well, thank you very 
much, General. I appreciate those kind 
words, and I appreciate your warm welcome. I'm glad I came back to West 
Virginia. This is a State of good people, good folks, down-to-earth 
folks. And I'm glad to be in your midst again.
    I particularly want to say thanks to General Tackett for his leadership. He's one of the finest Guard Generals 
in the United States of America. All you've got to do is look at his 
    Secretary Rumsfeld and I, we're 
looking at the General's record. It's 
because of your service that he looks good--[laughter]--because of his 
leadership that the record is good. So Secretary Rumsfeld and I say 
thank you, General, for your leadership. It's an honor for us to be here 
in your midst.
    I appreciate the good Governor of this State's kind words. Good luck to you, Governor. He asked me today 
if he had any advice--if I had any advice to him about his state of the 
State address tonight. I said I did: Just keep it short. [Laughter] But 
I want to thank you for your hospitality, Governor.
    I'm honored to be traveling from the Nation's Capital with one of 
the most eloquent public servants our Nation has had in a long time, 
somebody who not only represents the great State of West Virginia well 
but cares deeply about our country, its standing in the world--a 
guardian of what is right, protector of the grand traditions in the 
United States Senate. And that's, of course, the great United States 
Senator, Senator Robert Byrd.
    You all sent somebody who is plenty capable to take the Governor's 
place in the Halls of Congress, somebody who will represent West 
Virginia well in the House of Representatives, somebody who brings a lot 
of class to the office. And that is Shelley Moore Capito.
    And traveling with us are two Members of the United States Senate, 
Senators Stevens and Inouye, as well as Chairman Jerry Lewis. 
And I want to thank those Members for traveling with us. It just goes to 
show how powerful--it just goes to show how powerful Senator Byrd is. [Laughter] He said, ``I think you fellows may 
need to come over and pay a visit to West Virginia.'' All of us said, 
``Yes, sir, we're on our way.'' [Laughter]
    I also want to thank Command Master Sergeant Leonard, the senior enlisted man for the Guard and Reserves. 
Sergeant Leonard, thank you for coming.
    Finally, I don't want to embarrass the fellow, but I'm going to. In 
1968, July of '68, I was stationed in Lackland Air Force Base, San 
Antonio, Texas.
    Audience member. Hooah! [Laughter]
    The President. You don't sound old enough to have been there. 
    But today when I got off the airplane, Master Sergeant David 
Eshbaugh from West Virginia was there 
to greet me. He and I shared the same dorm in Lackland Air Force Base, 
Texas. And David, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for 
greeting me at the foot of the stairs when I got off the airplane. And 
thank you for your service, too.
    There is an old saying that example is the true language of men. The 
example of this State speaks of duty and honor. The people of West 
Virginia have always answered the call to military service. There are an 
awful lot of mountaineers who have made this country proud. And the men 
and women of the West Virginia National Guard and Reserves continue that 
tradition. When it comes to readiness, as the Governor mentioned, the 
State's Army and international Guard units are ranked at the

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top of our Nation, and the West Virginia National Guard has more people 
than openings. It's a darn good sign that things are right in the ranks 
here in this important State.
    I also want to recognize the employers of the National Guardsmen and 
reservists, especially those who are here today. Citizen soldiers have 
always depended on selfless employers. The generosity of the employers 
in West Virginia wasn't learned in MBA textbooks or in business schools. 
It was learned because these folks are patriotic. They care about their 
State, and they care about their country. You put love of country above 
love of profit, and you have the gratitude of our Nation.
    This is the National Guard's Year of the Employer, and it's a 
recognition that the employers of the guardsmen and the reservists 
justly deserve. National Guardsmen and reservists are a part of a great 
and enduring American tradition. The National Guard itself is the oldest 
part of America's Armed Forces, with a history reaching back more than 
three and a half centuries.
    During the American Revolution, volunteers and minutemen earned our 
freedom. Today, our Guard and Reserve help preserve it. The National 
Guard has a unique role. It serves America within our borders and beyond 
our borders. You assist your neighbors in times of natural disaster, in 
flood and storm and fire. The West Virginia National Guard, for example, 
has been activated for disaster relief 15 times in the last 6 years. All 
Americans have learned to count on the National Guard in times of crisis 
to lend a strong and helping hand.
    The Guard reservists also provide for the common defense. This has 
always been so, but it has never been more important than today. During 
the last few years, American active forces have been reduced in size, 
even as American commitments have increased. The Guard and Reserves have 
stepped up to the challenge.
    More than ever, you find yourselves a part of overseas missions, 
serving with your active duty counterparts. In Bosnia and Kosovo, 
reservists make up 15 to 20 percent of the force. You know firsthand. 
Less than 2 months ago, a number of airmen from the 130th Airlift Wing 
came home from Operation Joint Force after flying missions from Germany 
to the Balkans.
    During my tenure as Governor of Texas, hundreds of National 
Guardsmen and reservists were sent to Bosnia, and I was enormously proud 
of them. They did what they always do: They performed their duty, just 
as you performed your duty.
    As threats to America change, your role will continue to change. The 
National Guard and reservists will be more involved in homeland 
security, confronting acts of terror and the disorder our enemies may 
try to create. I welcome the important part you will play in protecting 
our Nation and its people. The National Guard and Reserves are a vital 
part of America's national defense. And I want you to know that you not 
only have a former guardsman in the White House; you have a friend.
    Beyond the role you play in the Armed Forces, America's citizen 
soldiers display values that are central to our Nation: character, 
courage, and sacrifice. You demonstrate the highest form of citizenship. 
And while you may not be full-time soldiers, you are full-time patriots.
    In his book ``Citizen Soldier,'' the distinguished historian Stephen 
Ambrose wrote this: ``At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew 
the difference between right and wrong. And they didn't want to live in 
a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and they won. And we, 
all of us living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly 
    Professor Ambrose was writing about the soldiers of World War II. 
But his words apply to this audience and to the men and women around the 
world who proudly wear the uniform. Your uniform shows that you are 
living your life for others, for your fellow West Virginians in time of 
suffering and crisis, for your fellow Americans when

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our safety is threatened, and for the values and ideals our country 
represents when our allies and friends ask for help.
    All Americans benefit from your service, and we'll always be 
grateful. Thank you for coming, and God bless.

Note: The President spoke at 11:47 a.m. at Yeager Field at the West 
Virginia National Guard Headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to 
Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, Adjutant General, West Virginia Army 
National Guard; Gov. Robert E. Wise of West Virginia; Com. Sgt. Maj. 
John J. Leonard, Jr., Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Assistant Secretary 
of Defense for Reserve Affairs; and M. Sgt. David (Mike) Eshbaugh, 167th 
Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard.