Bush mourns slain troops

Saturday, March 9, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Wiping away tears, President Bush told families of slain U.S. servicemen "we ache for you" and predicted more American troops would die in the war against terrorism.

"We will take loss of life," Bush said Friday, "and I'm sad for loss of life."

Bush was in Florida to discuss the economy and corporate responsibility while raising $500,000 for the state Republican Party. The proceeds will help finance the re-election campaign of his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

It was Bush's eighth trip as president to Florida, a state he won by 536 votes to claim the White House after a 36-day recount fight. Florida is critical to his own re-election hopes.

During his address at American II Electronics, the president introduced relatives of two Florida soldiers who died Monday in the war's bloodiest U.S. operation. As applause filled the cavernous shop floor, the president's lips began to quiver as he fought back tears.

"We'll be relentless and determined to do what is right," he said.

Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, of Brandon, Fla., and Sgt. Bradley Crose, 22, of Orange Park, Fla., were among seven Americans killed Monday in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

'A noble and just cause'

With a deep exhale, Bush addressed Anderson's father and brother.

"I know your heart aches, and we ache for you. But your son and your brother died for a noble and just cause," Bush said. He reached with his thumb to wipe away a tear from his left eye.

"I hate it to know that young soldiers are at risk," the president said, now thumbing tears from his right eye.

"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 our United States government will provide the United States military with whatever it needs to win this war against terror."

Earlier, in an exchange with reporters, the president warned that American troops are in combat against "fierce fighters," who have vowed to battle to the death.

"That's OK," Bush said. "If that's their attitude, we'll just have to adjust."

He added: "There's going to be more battles like this one."

Bush has teared up in public before, but until Friday had studiously avoided emotional displays about fallen U.S. troops. He has sought instead to put the deaths in a broader context: They are simply the latest casualties in a war that began with nearly 3,000 deaths Sept. 11, Bush and his aides have repeatedly said.

A total of 13 Americans have been killed in combat or other hostile situations during the war in Afghanistan, including eight in the current battle against al-Qaida fighters.

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