U.S. President George W. Bush vowed anew that there would be no retreat from the war in Iraq as he addressed an enthusiastic crowd of military families, a supportive contrast to the anti-war demonstrators who have been shadowing him wherever he goes.
"So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror," Bush told National Guard troops and their families Wednesday. Afterward, he met privately with relatives of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the AP reports.
About 150 protesters gathered across a parking lot from the arena where Bush spoke. Smaller groups were allowed closer in designated areas. Anti-war activists have staged vigils outside his ranch in Texas and during his three-day trip to Utah and Idaho.
Bush praised the unique role of Guard members, who serve both their states and their country. More than 243,000 National Guard members have been called up for the war, including more than 1,700 from Idaho.
Referring specifically to the war's growing death toll, a recent change in his remarks on Iraq, Bush said 491 Guard and Reserve members had lost their lives. "And now we'll honor their sacrifice by completing their mission," he said.
In all, more than 2,000 U.S. military service members have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.