President Bush expressed his gratitude to the nation's men and women in uniform yesterday, praising them for "laying the foundation for peace for generations to come."

Bush visited 37 soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"Every time I come here, I am struck by the remarkable resolve and courage of the men and women who are treated here," he said.

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said one soldier who had lost a leg struggled to rise so that he could stand at attention to salute Bush. The president "shared some tearful moments with the family members of the soldiers. He also shared some laughs with them and a lot of hugs," McClellan said.

Bush spent an hour and a half going from room to room, meeting with the soldiers and their families.

Afterward, he urged Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday by showing their support for U.S. servicemen and women. He suggested flying the American flag or writing a letter to a soldier overseas.

Bush also awarded five Purple Hearts to four soldiers -- one was wounded twice and received two awards.

Bush's visit comes three days after he rejected calls from critics to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. During his speech to the nation Tuesday night, he also urged Americans to be patient in the face of fading support from the public.

Walter Reed has treated more than 4,200 patients from the Iraq war, 1,150 of them with combat injuries, and more than 300 wounded troops from Afghanistan.

President Bush spends a moment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with Cpl. Cole Hansen.