Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you who are standing watch around the world. Never have I been prouder of our troops. Never have I been prouder to be your Commander in Chief. Because in this season of peace, it is your commitment and your courage that makes peace possible.
We think of you in the snowy fields and runways of Europe, where thanks to you millions are celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah openly for the first time in 45 years. We think of you off the coast of the Philippines and Japan and the DMZ in Korea. We think of you in Panama, where lightning success last Christmas ended the reign of a despot and brought peace to a people. We think of you in the air, on the high seas, and at bases and Embassies around the world, who kept our country untouched and at peace throughout the long winter darkness of the cold war.
Back home, some talk of the cost of war, but it is you who understand the price of peace. Each Christmas Day, we close our eyes in prayer and think of what Harry Truman called the humble surroundings of the Nativity and how from a straw-littered stable shone a light which for nearly 20 centuries has given men strength, comfort, and peace.
It's distant in time, but close within our hearts; because on this Christmas Day, hour by hour, hand in hand, Americans will send their prayers eastward across the ocean and halfway across the world not only to the town of Bethlehem but to the sands and shores where you stand in harm's way.
We're in the Gulf because the world must not reward aggression, because our vital interests are at stake, and because of the brutality and danger of Saddam Hussein. We're there backed by 12 United Nations resolutions and the forces of 25 other countries.
Barbara and I spent Thanksgiving with our men and women over there. And when we got back, I spoke to the American people -- told them of your bravery and reminded them why we're there. First, I put the immorality of the invasion of Kuwait itself. I said I was deeply concerned about what has happened and is happening there, concerned about a ruthless despot's attempt to dominate a volatile and critical region, concerned about his efforts to acquire nuclear arms, and concerned that a promising era is threatened by an international outlaw. And I told the American people something else: that we want peace, not war, and that I will do my level-best to bring you home without a single shot fired.
And let me say one other thing: The sacrifices you make will never be forgotten. America is behind you, the world is behind you, and history is behind you. When you come home -- and we hope it's soon -- you'll be welcomed as what you are: all-American heroes.
Today at the White House and all across America, candles burn in remembrance of you and all our troops across the country and around the world. There is no way Americans can forget the contribution you are making to world peace and to our country. Whenever we see Old Glory snapping in the breeze, we think of you. Whenever we hear the inspirational words of ``The Star-Spangled Banner,'' we think of you. And whenever we enjoy the boundless opportunities of a free country, we think of you.
History may make men, but you are making history. I think of Lieutenant Mary Danko, the flight nurse who volunteered for Saudi Arabia. Her husband, a C - 130 navigator, was already flying in support of Desert Shield. And when asked if leaving their baby with relatives was a hard thing to do, Mary said, ``It's the right thing to do. We're needed.'' And when asked, ``Now, what about the kid?'' Mary explained, ``We're doing it for the kid.'' Well, she's right. Mary's right. She knows that when peace and freedom triumph, it's not a triumph for one particular country or one particular people but a triumph for our children, a triumph for all humankind.
And so it is with the holidays, for tonight the star of Bethlehem and the candles of the menorah will cast their light in American outposts around the world with a timeless message of hope and renewal that radiates to people of all faiths. Each of you is precious. Each life is important because it touches so many other lives. And while you may be out of America's sight, rest assured no matter where you serve you will never be out of America's heart.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all. God keep you and watch over you. And God bless America.
Note: This message was recorded on December 11 in Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building. It was broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network to American troops worldwide on Christmas Day. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.