President Bush welcomed U.S. troops home from the Persian Gulf at a star-studded gala during which he credited the armed forces with lifting America's spirit by winning a decisive victory.
Held inside a cavernous airplane hangar before thousands representing all of the service branches, the event Wednesday night blended patriotism with entertainment and was beamed to a national television audience."America rediscovered itself during Desert Storm," said Bush during brief remarks at center stage.
"First-rate military leaders executed a sound battle plan and delivered a swift victory. Men and women of all races and backgrounds worked together turning blue-prints into triumphs," he said.
"Every single day I feel a special sense of joy and gratitude for you and all who served. And when you freed Kuwait, you uplifted the American spirit," the president said.
Bush also remembered those Americans killed during the war with Iraq, saying "to all those who gave their lives for this country, we will never forget you or what you have done."
Bush, accompanied by his wife, Barbara, entered the hangar to thunderous applause and sat just off the stage during the variety review featuring patriotic songs - including a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" by children from Kuwait.
Also in attendence were former U.S. prisoners of war held in Iraq and representatives from most of the 33 nations that participated in the allied effort to evict Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.
Throughout the two-hour production, poignant videos were shown on a giant screen, presenting vignettes of dramatic wartime moments from the White House and the Persian Gulf.
The crowd waved small American flags adorned with yellow ribbons and enthusiastically cheered the parade of stage, screen and musical luminaries, including Andy Griffith, Alan Alda, Barbara Mandrell and Randy Travis. One of the loudest ovations was reserved for the U.S. Army drill team.
Roughly 167,000 out of the 540,000 American troops deployed to the gulf region for Operation Desert Storm have returned to the United States or have been deployed to other bases.
Bush said earlier in the day that the U.N. Security Council vote adopting a permanent cease-fire resolution for the gulf war will "enable me as commander in chief to bring our troops home. That's what I want to do."
"They're coming home 3,000 to 5,000 a day, and the rejoicing that the families have as these young men and women come home has been wonderful therapy for this whole nation," he said.