Marking his fifth Veterans Day since the invasion of Iraq, US President George W. Bush honored US troops past and present at a tearful ceremony on Sunday for four Texans who died there.
The White House had said Bush was going to use his Veterans Day speech to scold Congress for not sending him a veterans spending bill. But the president finished without any reference to the bill or Congress.
"In their sorrow, these families need to know -- and families all across our nation of the fallen -- need to know that your loved ones served a cause that is good and just and noble," Bush said.
"And as their commander in chief, I make you this promise: Their sacrifice will not be in vain," he said.
Bush was scheduled to return to the White House yesterday after his two-day meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Texas ranch.
"America is blessed to have such brave defenders," Bush said of the troops in Iraq.
"They are tomorrow's veterans, and they are bringing pride to our country. Their service is noble and it is necessary. The enemies who attacked us six years ago want to strike our country again, and next time they hope to kill Americans on a scale that will make 9/11 pale by comparison," Bush said.
Bush has spent four of the past six Veterans Days at Arlington National Cemetery.
This year, US Vice President Dick Cheney went there to pay tribute to Iraq veterans.
Hundreds of people cheered when Cheney offered personal regards from Bush.
He placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns, pausing to straighten the ribbons on the front.
Cheney quoted General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, in saying troops there were fighting in a complex and challenging situation and praised them for a "magnificent job."
In previewing Bush's speech, the White House had said he would criticize Congress for not sending him the appropriations measure that funds programs for veterans.
The veterans bill has gotten caught up in a larger battle between Bush and Congress over Democratic efforts to add about US$23 billion for domestic programs to Bush's US$933 billion proposal for all agency budgets.
Once Bush was at Sunday's ceremony, however, he decided not to mention the budget fight.
Afterward, White House spokes-man Gordon Johndroe said Bush "significantly shortened" his remarks because the ceremony had already been more than an hour long.
"I think he felt it was more important to shorten the remarks and meet with the families as scheduled," Johndroe said.