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BERLIN — Americans living in this divided city probably appreciate freedom more than any other Americans, Vice President George Bush told about 2,000 U.S. soldiers and airmen and family members here Tuesday afternoon.

About 900 schoolchildren in the crowd waved small flags and handmade posters to welcome Bush to the U.S. Command Berlin Sports Center.

Bush, visiting the servicemembers after a stop at the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, said that, even though he had known and read about the wall, he was still surprised when he actually stood in its "long shadow."

The wall is "one of the cruelest existing realities of our time," he said.

Bush extended President Reagan's best regards to the men and women of the military.

"I hope that, through our actions and through the words of this administration, you sense the feelings we have deep inside," he said. "We have great respect and admiration for the men and women in the armed forces. We're grateful to each and every one of you."

Bush said the purpose of his visit to Europe was to spread the message that the United States is a "nation of peace .... We are committed to reducing the terror of nuclear war."

If that message is spread to the capitals of Europe, Bush said, he would consider his trip worthwhile.

He said it was a "happy occasion" for him to be able to turn from the "grayness" of the wall and to then see the "infectious enthusiasm of the American audience."

"Sometimes we in the United States take for granted what the country stands for and its role in history," he said. "Having seen the Berlin Wall, I'll never again take freedom for granted."

Shortly before the vice president's address, his wife, Barbara, visited with about 150 children at the command's new children's center.

Following his remarks, Bush walked around the packed gymnasium to shake hands with many of the servicemembers and their families.

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