Bush Cut Anti-War Portion of Soldier's Note

From Associated Press

The letter from a Knoxville soldier cited by President Bush as a symbol of patriotism included some notes the President did not refer to in his nationally televised address--including the soldier's reservations about war and his opposition to unnecessary violence.

Army Pfc. Wade Merritt wrote to his parents of his pride in serving in Saudi Arabia, but also stated, "I don't believe in war."

When the call came from the White House for permission to use the letter, the Merritt family thought they were being taken for a ride.

The caller said President Bush, in his nationally broadcast address to Congress on Tuesday night, wanted to single out their son's letter.

The soldier's sister, Kim Inklebarger, said: "It really didn't get real until President Bush said it. Once he actually said it, it was very incredibly real."

Bush read an excerpt of a 2 1/2-page letter Merritt wrote several weeks ago from Saudi Arabia to his parents, Ann and Kenneth Merritt. Ann Merritt, who Inklebarger said is "extremely patriotic," had sent the White House a copy of the letter.

Wade Merritt told ABC's "Good Morning America" today that some of his mother's friends had encouraged her to send his letter to the President. But he added, "I was very shocked."

"I am proud of my country and its firm stance against inhumane aggression," the 22-year-old soldier wrote. "I am proud of my Army and its men. . . . I am proud to serve my country."

But he also wrote, in a section not read by Bush, "As much as I love my job, I don't believe in war or the unnecessary acts of violence against fellow human beings, but it is my job.

"When I made a decision to make the Army my career, I knew that this day would come, but I was hoping it wouldn't."

In his speech, Bush said, "Let me just say, Wade, America is proud of you. And grateful to every soldier, sailor, Marine and airman serving the cause of peace in the Persian Gulf."

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