WASHINGTON -- Reports that President Bush would welcome home more than 4,000 troops of the 82nd Airborne Division today at Andrews Air Force base were completely erroneous, the White House said yesterday.
Neither Mr. Bush nor the troops will be there, officials said.
The president did provide some details about the schedule for bringing soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines home from their service in the Persian Gulf war during his address to Congress last night. He said, for example, that by 11 p.m. EST last night troops of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division would be flying out of Saudi Arabia for Fort Stewart, Ga., their home base.
But White House officials said there was no plan for a large contingent to fly into Andrews nor, they said, had there been any preparation for a presidential greeting there.
Most returning troops will fly directly to their home bases, where the nearby communities are planning celebrations.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the president planned to attend several of these hometown celebrations in the next few weeks, but no details about those events were available.
Mr. Bush also may greet returning prisoners of war, officials said, but there are no plans in the works now.
The president paid his personal respects to some troops during a visit to Saudi Arabia at Thanksgiving and during a one-day tour of three military bases last month.
He has had no direct contact with relatives of troops killed during the war, Mr. Fitzwater said. There have been no phone calls or personal notes from Mr. Bush, nor presidential appearances at the funerals.