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LANDSTUHL, Germany (AP) -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert thanked U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq for doing "a great deed for our country," as he visited a military hospital Monday at the head of an eight-member congressional delegation.
"Back home, they are considered brave warriors and, really, heroes for what they have done," Hastert told reporters after meeting soldiers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
"They are doing a great deed for our country and making the sacrifice they make so our country can remain free," said Hastert, a Republican from Illinois. The delegation brought gifts that included golf balls with congressional seals.
Landstuhl, which so far has treated 258 patients with battlefield injuries from the war, is the largest U.S. military hospital outside the United States.
The delegation planned to stop at U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, before traveling on to Cyprus on Tuesday and visiting an aircraft carrier, Hastert spokesman John Feehery said. The lawmakers also plan to visit the Royal Air Force's Fairford base in England, where U.S. B-52 bombers are based, before returning to Washington on Friday.
President Bush views the Iraq war as a part of the U.S.-led war on terror launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and Hastert recalled that day after thanking the wounded soldiers.
"Most of us here looked out the windows of the Capitol and saw the smoke coming from the Pentagon on 9/11," he said.
"The Congress made a commitment at that point -- we weren't going to let that happen in the United States again," Hastert added. "These young men and women certainly are worthy of carrying out that job."
The delegation, wearing yellow ribbons and Stars and Stripes pins to show their support for the troops -- as well as pins that combined the U.S. and German flags -- included six more Republicans: Rob Portman of Ohio, Judy Biggert of Illinois, John Shadegg of Arizona, Anne Northup of Kentucky, Mike Pence of Indiana and Todd Tiahrt of Kansas.
The one Democrat, Norm Dicks of Washington, said the wounded soldiers were "all excited about getting well and going home and seeing their families."
"What a great attitude they have," he said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)