The crowd even cheered the president's decision in January to send 28,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq to tamp down the violence and encourage the Iraqis to reach political agreements among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
The war, in its fifth year, has claimed the lives of more than 3,500 U.S. military men and women. The offensive in Baghdad and areas to the north and south has boosted American casualties, although the number of bombings and shootings has fallen in the city in recent days.
"It's a tough fight, but I wouldn't have asked those troops to go into harm's way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America," Bush said during a half-hour speech that echoed off the walls of a cavernous aircraft maintenance hangar.
In Baghdad, the administration was trumpeting a ceremony in which 588 U.S. troops marked the holiday by re-enlisting yesterday, and 161 soldiers raised their right hands to recite an oath making them American citizens.
However, difficulties continue in Iraq. Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds said yesterday that they have not been able to agree to a draft bill to regulate the country's oil industry - something U.S. officials hope will rally Sunni support for the government and reduce backing for insurgents. The oil bill is a top concern of Iraq's Sunni minority, which is centered in regions of the country with few proven reserves and fears that Shiites and Kurds in the oil-rich south and north will monopolize profits from the industry.
It was the fourth Independence Day Bush has spent in West Virginia.
He thanked the servicemen and women serving abroad and their families, including children at the event who recited the Pledge of Allegiance with him.
Bush compared the Revolutionary War's citizen-soldiers of the Continental Army, who traded pitchforks for muskets, to the guardsmen and other military personnel fighting against terrorists today.
About 2,000 people, including members of the 167th Airlift Wing and their families, were invited to the event.
Bush singled out Master Sgt. Richard Howland of the 167th who has deployed abroad seven times since the Sept. 11 attacks and has volunteered to go to Baghdad for an eighth deployment.
Yesterday, meanwhile, two Americans were reported killed in separate incidents, one when a helicopter "went down" in Ninevah province north of Baghdad and the second during combat operations in southern Baghdad. *