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Public Papers - 1989 - December

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in San Antonio, Texas, on United States Military Action in Panama

1989-12-31

The President. Barbara and I are very pleased to be here to see these heroic men and glad to be addressing the family there in the Panhandle of Texas. Hope you're not freezing to death up there, but good luck to you. And I'll tell you one thing we found is the Army is sure taking good care of these guys, as well they should. But every place I've been, every room, they've been telling me about the wonderful treatment from the doctors and the nurses. So, I want to assure the family that they're looking after this guy. The best of luck for a New Year. Click. [Laughter]

All right. We'll see you. Good luck.

Well, having spoken and given a little home video, I might simply say in the midst of this tour that I am extremely grateful to the men and women of the hospitals we've visited for the tender loving care that they're giving our heroic troops and to the soldiers and the SEAL's and the marines that I've met. We tried to tell them how grateful we are.

Q. When will the troops be flying home, Mr. President?

The President. The sooner, the better. The sooner, the better.

Q. Impressed, Mr. President? Impressed with these -- --

The President. Very moving. Very moving.

Q. Mr. President, is there a lot of movement to get Noriega? There seems to be a lot of talk in Panama today that you're close.

The President. I told you to stay tuned, that we're working the problem. If we have something to announce, well, we'll announce it. But we're -- --

Q. It sounds like you're pretty close.

Q. -- -- tell these young men anything about Noriega today, though, can you?

The President. Well, we can tell them that he's not out threatening the lives of Americans, and that's a good message for them. I wish all of you could have heard the spirit of these kids when they were talking. You get the feel of their patriotism and their courage. I'll tell you, it was very, very moving for me and for Barbara.

Q. Was it rough, also, sir? You seem -- --

The President. I'm not too good at that kind of thing. But, yes, because you identify with these families. This little girl there, I mean -- --

Mrs. Bush. Tell them about the boy with the flag.

The President. You tell them.

Mrs. Bush. No, I can't.

Q. Tell us, sir.

Q. The Attorney General of Panama says if you would like the Vatican to release Noriega to them, and they will file charges -- --

The President. Well, as I told you yesterday, there's a lot going on and discussions about what'll take place. It doesn't help you all for me just to speculate on this. But we want him brought to justice. It's only fair and right for these kids lying here that that happens, and I'm determined to see that that happens. So, we'll keep working the problem. But I can't help you, because it's just a lot of diplomatic effort going on.

But I'm here, year-end, to salute these courageous men and to tell them, as best I could, how proud we are of them and to say that, in a military sense, everything I've heard is that the operation, though some were desperately hurt and some regrettably killed, was a superb operation. And there should be no second-guessing. And the beautiful thing about this visit is I get strength from them about no second-guessing. They're gutsy, courageous young men, and I just wish you could have heard every single conversation.

Q. Anything about the boy with the flag?

The President. Thank you all. Happy New Year to all of you. Barbara can tell you.

Q. Mrs. Bush, could you?

Mrs. Bush. Let me just tell you. He thanked George and gave him a little American flag. And he said, ``This is from all the men in Panama, and I want you to have this from them. And we thank you for sending us.'' He's a paraplegic.

Q. From this incident?

Mrs. Bush. Right there. He's so sweet. But I mean, he met him. He wasn't -- you can't fake that.

Q. Thank you, Mrs. Bush.

The President. You have a Happy New Year!

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. in the Beach Pavilion at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston following a visit with U.S. troops wounded in Panama. In his opening remarks, he participated in the filming of a home video for Pvt. Scott Tout's family. Later, he referred to 8-year-old Noella Almeida, who was visiting her father at the hospital. Prior to visiting the medical center, the President attended church services at the Kelly Air Force Base chapel and visited the wounded at Wilford Hall Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base.

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