ABCNews’ Jennifer Duck Reports: President Bush defended the troop build-up in Iraq and gave a message of praise and encouragement for troops serving overseas on the July 4th holiday.
"It’s a tough fight, but I wouldn’t have asked those troops to go into harm’s way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America," Bush told a crowd of West Virginia Air National Guard and their families.
He called for Americans to be patient and to listen to the Generals on the ground and not withdraw from Iraq for political reasons. "Victory in this struggle will require more patience, more courage and more sacrifice," Bush said. Bush acknowledged the hardships for the troops and their families and thanked them for staying strong on a holiday full of fireworks and picnics.
Over 2,000 people were invited to the event, but just over 1,000 people attended. Bush has celebrated Independence Day four times in West Virginia, a key battleground state which he has carried in the past two presidential elections.
The President noted his better half was not in attendance, but he joked with the crowd, "I told her [Laura Bush] to fire up the grill."
Upon his return home, President Bush will celebrate the 4th of July and his 61st birthday – 2 days early- with friends and family, including the First Lady, his parents, and twin daughters. The Bushes will watch the fireworks later this evening from the White House.