(CNN) – President George W. Bush appears to be going through a transition of his own in the remaining days of his administration.
The nation’s outgoing Commander-in-Chief seemed reflective and emotional at moments as he spoke at a military appreciation parade in Fort Meyer in Virginia Tuesday.
Watch: Bush honors the military
“We will always remember that you answered the call to serve when your nation needed you most,” the 43rd president said.
“And we will always remember the debt of gratitude that each of us who lives in freedom owes to each of you who has protected it. May God bless you. And may God always bless the United States,” Bush said as he concluded his comments. He appeared to struggle to maintain his composure as his remarks ended.
During his 10-minute address, Bush also made several references to how he called on the military to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “You closed down the terrorist training camps, and you drove the Taliban from power [in Afghanistan],” Bush said.
“I saw your valor in the fearless troops who stormed across the Iraqi desert and destroyed a regime that threatened America,” he added, also calling the recent military surge in Iraq “one of the great successes in America’s military history.”
In acknowledging the contributions of the military, Bush also seemed to defend his own legacy. “The decisions I made as your Commander-in-Chief have not always been popular,” he said Tuesday. “But the cause you have served has always been just and right. The missions you have carried out have always been necessary.”
“Because you’ve taken the fight to the terrorists abroad, we have not had to face them here at home,” Bush said. “And the world has seen something that almost no one thought possible: more than seven years after September the 11th, there has not been another attack on American soil.”
In his remarks, Bush also described the first decade of the new century as the “early days of a generational struggle against terror and extremism . . . a story of a global coalition led by the United States that is dedicated to eliminating the forces of oppression and fear.”
Bush also specifically acknowledged two of the most controversial figures involved in his administration’s response to September 11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I am proud to have served with [Vice President Cheney] for eight years,” said Bush. “The military has had no stauncher defender in my administration”
And Bush said Don Rumsfeld, his former Defense Secretary, “did an outstanding job.”
Bush has just 14 days remaining in office until President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated.
“The military brought me to Washington eight years ago – and on January 20th, the military is taking me home,” Bush told the audience.