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06-29-05, 07:18 AM
Nods of Agreement From Enlisted for Bush
Nods of Agreement From Soldiers and Marines As President Bush Vows to Stay Course in Iraq
The Associated Press
Jun. 29, 2005

For those Americans with the greatest stake in the outcome of the war in Iraq the people fighting it President Bush's call Tuesday to stay the course brought mostly sober nods of agreement.

On the first anniversary of the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis, Bush spoke to an audience of 700 soldiers at a gymnasium at Fort Bragg, N.C., and a national television audience.

Recent polls have shown Americans increasingly dubious about the direction and human cost of the more than two-year-old war. Some politicians even some in Bush's own Republican party have called for a timetable for U.S. troops to return home.

Associated Press reporters in some of the states that have seen the highest number of deaths in Iraq in the year since sovereignty was returned to the Iraqi people spoke to soldiers, Marines and others about the president's message.

In Killeen, Texas, near Fort Hood, Sgt. Chuck Crawley watched the speech at Boston's Gourmet Pizza.

Crawley, 25 and a member of the 1st Cavalry Division, said America's job in Iraq is unfinished.

"They ain't liberated. If they were liberated we wouldn't still be there," said Crawley, of Charlotte, N.C. "They're not free."

Crawley has already spent a year in Iraq, returning to the U.S. in March. He re-enlisted and has been told he'll be returning there later this summer.

Only when Iraq has a stable police force, Army and government will American troops be able to come home, he said.

"If we leave there will be a civil war within the country and more people will die that way," he said. "At least when we are there, we have control over it."

Some 2,500 miles from where Bush spoke to the troops, the president's photograph hung on a wall at Beachcomber Barbershop in Oceanside, Calif., while Marines from Camp Pendleton got their hair cut and listened to the speech.

Cpl. James Anderson, 22, applauded Bush's refusal to set a timetable.

"Like any Marine, you do the job until it's done. You don't just do it halfway and leave," said Anderson, a Houston native who said he is scheduled to leave for Iraq soon.

Fellow Houston native Cpl. Chase Krebbs, 22, agreed.

"I'm a Marine. That's why I joined, to do this stuff, to serve and protect," Krebbs said.

California-based troops have suffered more deaths than any other state over the last year, and the state also leads in deaths among troops who list their hometowns in California.

Even farther west, in Hawaii, the president's speech came at 2 p.m. on a sunny afternoon.

Lt. j.g. Ben Beebe of Alexandria, La., a Navy pilot and third generation serviceman, stopped by a Taco Bell in the seaside military town of Kailua with another sailor to grab some snacks.

The town is next to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay, which lost 26 Marines in a helicopter crash in Iraq in January and seven last October when a car bomb exploded outside Fallujah. Hawaii-based units have been among the hardest-hit over the last year.

Beebe said he and other soldiers are simply doing a job.

"You do the mission that we're trained to do," said Beebe who just returned from a six-month deployment in the Middle East and Afghanistan. "We never sit back and second guess what's going on."

Dissenting was Candice Wells of Asheville, N.C., visiting her brother, Justin, a sergeant stationed at the Marine base.

"I think we have too many problems in America before we go messing in other people's business," she said.

In Centreville, Ohio a state among the top five in hometown casualties over the last year the wife of Air Force Maj. Rick Webster said she hopes the president's appeal will shore up eroding support for the Iraq mission.

"To have my children have to hear, 'Oh well, we shouldn't be over there,' I think that's very degrading" to members of the military, Jennifer Webster said as she played with the couple's 5-month-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

Her husband was optimistic that troops will be coming home eventually even as he wondered about the president's stated aim of eradicating global terrorism.

"To go through and say, 'Are we going to eradicate terrorism off the face of the earth?' is the same as saying, 'Are the good lord and the devil ever going to eliminate each other?'" Webster said.

In the gymnasium at Fort Bragg, Staff Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf who lost his right leg to an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2004 was inspired by Bush's words. He was among the 700 soldiers who stood silently at attention when their comamnder-in-chief took the stage.

Metzdorf, 28, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., has rejoined the 82nd Airborne since losing his leg and said Bush delivered the right message: "We're doing a great job over there, but the job is not over with."

Contributing to this story were AP Writers Angela Brown in Texas, Elliot Spagat in California, Tara Godvin in Hawaii, Nick Juliano in Ohio and Estes Thompson in North Carolina.