FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A former president defended the U.S. military Thursday during a speech at one of the nation's largest Army posts, where one private accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners awaits a court-martial.
"These are difficult times for the Army as the actions of a handful in Iraq violate the soldier's code," said George Bush, the father of President George W. Bush. "Let me express my hope that you pay no heed to the endless attacks on the military. I'm afraid some people are turning on our superb military."
Bush spoke at the dedication of a new $6.8 million headquarters for the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute demonstration team.
Pfc. Lynndie England, a 21-year-old reservist from West Virginia, faces a court-martial on charges such as conspiracy to maltreat prisoners and assault consummated by battery. If convicted, she would face punishment ranging from a reprimand to more than 15 years in prison.
England is assigned to a military police brigade office at Fort Bragg, and legal proceedings will be held at the post. The former president did not refer to England by name.
The elder Bush's comments came on the same day his son told a West Virginia audience that photos of American servicemembers, including England, humiliating Iraqi prisoners were disgraceful.
The former president, now 79, served in the Navy in World War II, parachuting from a plane that was shot down in the Pacific.
He made a second parachute jump, this time with the Golden Knights, in 1997, at 72, and jumped again with the team in 2000.
Next month, the former president is scheduled to jump with the Golden Knights a third time, in connection with his 80th birthday and the dedication of his presidential library in College Station, Texas.
"Just because you're 80, that doesn't mean you can't do what you feel like doing," he said. "It sends a signal around the world that at 80, you're not dead."
As part of his visit, Bush visited a free-fall simulator at Fort Bragg. The simulator is a huge fan that blows enough air to support a human body in simulated free fall. He said he also toured a computerized war game center.
Bush charmed the mostly military crowd of about 200 by bashing the Washington press corps, saying he missed dealing with the military and opening his blazer to display an American flag lining.