FORT STEWART, Ga. President Bush promised yesterday that the nation will “do better” by its military and sought to boost soldiers” morale by promising pay raises and improved services after what he has called eight years of neglect.

Paul Wong
President Bush speaks to troops of the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., yesterday.<br><br>AP PHOTO

In his first visit to a military installation as commander-in-chief, Bush flew to the largest Army base east of the Mississippi River to put price tags on his campaign promises for improving the lives of military members and their families.

Bush drew the grunts” salute of “Hoo-ah!” as he declared, “While you”re serving us well, America is not serving you well enough. Many in our military have been over-deployed and underpaid.”

Speaking on a parade ground in the damp of a coastal Georgia morning, Bush basked in exuberant shouts as he enumerated his bill of particulars about the shortcomings of the military he has inherited. “These problems, from low pay to poor housing, reach across our military,” Bush said. “The result is predictable: Frustration is up morale, in some places, is difficult to sustain recruitment is harder. This is not the way a great nation should reward courage and idealism. It”s ungrateful, it”s unwise, and it is unacceptable. We will do better.”

The total package Bush announced for the coming budget year was $5.7 billion, including $3.9 billion to improve military health benefits and $400 million to improve military housing.

The president plans trips to bases each of the next two days as part of his “national security week,” designed to highlight his plans for the military.

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