President Reflects On Sacrifice Of Soldiers At Easter Service

Sunday, April 8th 2007, 2:31 pm
By: News On 6

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) _ President Bush, worshipping at an Army post, prayed for peace Sunday in an Easter service about avoiding the forces of sin and doing what is right.

``I had a chance to reflect on the great sacrifice that our military and their families are making,'' Bush said outside the chapel at Fort Hood after the service. ``I prayed for their safety, I prayed for their strength and comfort, and I pray for peace.''

Bush took no questions from reporters in his first public appearance since his spring break in Texas began on Wednesday. He was joined by first lady Laura Bush, her mother and his parents.

For the fourth time in five years, Bush flew 50 miles southwest from his ranch in Crawford to spend Easter morning at this sprawling Army post that has sent thousands of soldiers to the war in Iraq.

The chaplain, Maj. Richard P. Graves, said the military theme applies to daily life: People always should prepare themselves for action. The mission, he said, is leading better lives.

He said God ``is constantly searching our hearts and minds. He's kind of like Santa Claus. He knows if you've been good or if you've been bad.''

Bush sat in the front pew with his family. At the point in the service when people greeted those next to them, Bush walked around the chapel so he could shake hands with more worshippers.

``I'm breaking the rule, I know,'' Bush said, figuring no one would mind.

After his statement outside, Bush had a rare unscripted family moment in front of the media.

He said a public goodbye to his parents, who left after having Easter dinner at the ranch one night early.

``No press conferences,'' Bush said as the current and former presidents stood together.

``Wait a minute,'' the elder Bush said with a laugh. ``I had a few things to say!''

Back at the Crawford ranch, the Easter menu included fire-glazed ham, green chili cheese grits souffle, roasted orange molasses sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus, coconut cake and ice cream.

The holiday felt more like one from the Christmas season, with the temperature hovering near freezing. Snow coated the ground at Fort Hood.

On Monday, Bush planned to return to promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda. In the week ahead, he will push his immigration policies, his war-spending bill and his education programs.

Fort Hood is the largest active-duty armored post in the military. It spans 340 square miles and is home to nearly 65,000 soldiers and family members.

The post has contributed thousands of soldiers to the war in Iraq. Its 4th Infantry Division headquarters unit soon will return to Iraq after little more than seven months at home.

In Iraq, a new day brought more violence.

A pickup truck packed with artillery shells was detonated Sunday near a hospital south of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people. Separately, the U.S. military on Sunday announced the deaths of four American soldiers, killed a day earlier in an explosion northeast of Baghdad.

At least 3,274 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war.

U.S. forces also captured a senior al-Qaida leader and two others in a raid Sunday morning in Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The al-Qaida figure was linked to several car bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital, the military said in a statement, without naming the captive.