BETHESDA, Md. (AP) _ President Bush began Memorial Day weekend at the bedside of wounded U.S. troops, handing out Purple Hearts.
Bush visited on Friday with troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, their families and the medical staff at the National Naval Medical Center just outside Washington. The president was making his seventh visit to the medical center before flying aboard the Marine One helicopter to Camp David, Md., where he planned to spend part of the weekend.
``People come here without much hope and leave, in many cases, healed and ready to move on with their lives,'' Bush said.
He thanked the medical personnel for their work, which includes treating tragic battlefield injuries. Bush also thanked the soldiers for their service to the nation.
``I'm constantly amazed at the strength of character of those who wear the uniform,'' he said.
Bush met about two dozen soldiers, sailors and Marines, and handed out five Purple Hearts, the medal awarded to those who are wounded in combat.
On Monday, Bush will mark his sixth Memorial Day as a wartime president with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. He is to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns to honor those who have died in past and current battles.
The president makes occasional visits to either the Navy facility or Walter Reed Army Medical Center, nearby in Washington, to talk with soldiers recovering from injuries suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan.