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Ron Edmonds, Associated Press
President Bush bows his head during a prayer.

President Bush praised a member of the Utah National Guard Thursday, saying Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton — known as "Chief Wiggles" — understands the high calling of the American military.

Holton, who is stationed in Iraq, has used the nom de guerre "Chief Wiggles" in his Internet journal. Last September, he launched a worldwide effort to help the people of Iraq, particularly the children, called Operationgive.org.

President Bush spotlighted the chief's efforts during the 52nd annual national prayer breakfast Thursday in the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Bush said Americans in uniform understand the high calling they've answered because they see the nation and the lives they are changing.

"A Guardsman from Utah named Paul Holton has described seeing an Iraqi girl crying and decided then and there to help that child and others like her," the president said.

"By enlisting aid through the Internet, Chief Warrant Officer Holton had arranged the shipment of more than 16 hundred aid packages from overseas."

He quoted Holton's definition of his goals. Holton had said, Bush noted, that it is "part of our heritage that the benefits of being free, enjoyed by all Americans, were set up by God, intended for all people."

Still quoting Holton, the president said bondage is not of God, and that it is not right that anyone should be in bondage at any time, in any way.

"Everyone in this room can say amen to that," Bush added, a comment followed by applause.

A transcript of the president's statement, plus audio and video showing the event, have been posted on the White House Internet site at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/02/20040205-1.html.

Contacted by the Deseret Morning News, Holton's wife, Keeyeon, said she is "just overwhelmed" by the president's statement and the credit thus given her husband.

"I'm just proud of what he's doing for the country," she said. She added that she is glad the world is learning about Operationgive.org.

"I think this is a good example for others, and maybe they can follow my husband's example," Keeyeon Holton added.

She said replacements are on their way overseas and Paul Holton may be home from Iraq in a month or so.

Their son, Michael, who recently returned from a mission to Russia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he was glad that people hearing the speech appreciated the fact that "we're a free people and nobody should be in bondage.

"I think it is a great blessing to be a free people here in the U.S."

E-mail: bau@desnews.com