Associated Press WriterST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- A red-eyed, tearful President Bush on Friday mourned the deaths of Americans in Afghanistan, telling the families of two soldiers "we ache for you" while stressing that more casualties are inevitable in fierce battles now under way.
"It is the sign of what's going to happen for a while, and my fellow Americans must understand that," Bush said after singling out the families of two soldiers who were killed in fighting earlier this week. He vowed, as commander in chief, to do everything in his power to provide the U.S. military with what it needs.
"I know your heart aches, and we ache for you, but your son and brother died for a noble and just cause," Bush said. He wiped a tear from his cheek, his eyes lined in red, as he introduced the family members.
"We will take loss of life, and I'm sad for loss of life," Bush said. "I hate it to know that young soldiers are at risk, but I want to assure you and all those loved ones whose sons and daughters are at risk that not only is the cause just and important and noble, but the United States government will provide the United States military with what it needs to win this war on terrorism," Bush said.
Sgt. Bradley Crose and Spc. Marc Anderson died in combat Monday. Anderson's brother and sister-in-law attended the event, as did Crose's parents.
At a fund-raiser expected to net $500,000 for the Florida Republican Party, the president said he was particularly touched by the grief of Crose's mother. "It broke my heart to see her sadness," he said. "But I assured her, like I assure you, that ... our country will not relent. ... History has called us into action."
The proceeds of Friday's fund-raiser, at the elegant Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa in St. Pete Beach, eventually will help finance advertising for Gov. Jeb Bush, who is seeking a second term. The president headlined a Washington fund-raiser in January that raised $500,000 for his brother.
"I told Jeb I'll do anything he wants me to do to get him elected," Bush said. "If he wants me down here, I'm coming back." Friday's was Bush's eighth visit to Florida as president.
In the remarks at American II Electronics, Bush said he does not know whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive but cautioned Americans against judging the success of the war on the fate of the terrorist mastermind.
"Those who are preoccupied with one individual do not understand the struggle. We fight terror wherever terrorism exists and those people who say one person matters, they elevate that person to a status he does not deserve."
On Monday, six months since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Bush will observe the date with a White House ceremony attended by 1,300 people, including the families of victims and more than 100 ambassadors representing U.S. war allies.
He spoke to reporters as U.S. and Afghan soldiers waged a pitched battle in Gardez against al-Qaida militants vowing to fight to the death.
"We're fighting fierce fighters," Bush said. Noting that the enemy may not surrender, the president said, "That's OK. If that's their attitude, we'll just have to adjust."
He didn't say how the U.S.-led coalition would adjust.
Bush said he didn't know whether bin Laden or al-Qaida leadership were in the combat zone. "I don't know of any specific names. I do know we're making great progress. I do know that any time we find al-Qaida bunched up like that we'll get them," Bush said. "And there's going to be more battles like this."
The White House is trying to keep American rallied behind the president and the war, thus Monday's ceremonies. Bush said he has been impressed by the public's patience, and said he is not disappointed that bin Laden has not been found.
Asked what his expectations were six months ago regarding bin Laden's capture, Bush said, "I knew that we were in for a very different kind of war. ... I wasn't sure how long it would take. I knew it was going to take a while.
"I'm please with the progress we have made in a quick period of time," he said. "Six months is not a very long period of time when you think about the enemy we're fighting."