Tommy: Of days gone and time remembered

Watching the funeral of George H.W. Bush, I found myself moved to tears

Tommy Tucker, WWL First News
December 07, 2018 - 2:54 pm

There were a lot of things said and a lot of images seen this week. The nation mourned the loss of what some historians believe was the greatest one term president in the history of the republic. Those are rather strong words. They go along with the strong feelings I had as it relates to the death and funeral of George Herbert Walker Bush.

I feel, for whatever reason, that I have a connection with “41”. Maybe it was because he accepted the presidential nomination here in the Superdome. It might be that I intuitively thought he was a good man that wanted was best for the country. I know a lot of it was a result of his service record.

Like him my own father he left school to join the Navy and defend our country. He signed up when he was 18. My dad enlisted when he was 16 thanks to a phony birth certificate signed by a priest at Holy Name of Mary church in Algiers. My dad never spoke about what he went through with the smoke, noise, fear, horror, blood and everything else these fighting men, both young and old, had to endure. It was beyond brave. I got of glimpse of that through George H.W. Bush’s service record.

At that time, the youngest naval aviator in U.S. history, Bush flew 58 combat missions and twice had to be rescued from planes that went into the sea. I remember thinking it took courage to get into the plane the first time, even more courage after going into the ocean once and unbelievable courage to continue piloting bombers after twice being plucked from the water. After it was all over, naval pilot Bush said:

“I was scared, but I was willing. I was young, but I was ready. I had barely started living when I began to see men die.” I would think that’s what my late father would have said had he ever wanted to talk about it.

Watching the funeral, I found myself moved to tears as President George W. Bush patted his dad’s coffin before delivering the eulogy and briefly losing control of his emotions. Composing himself, he finished and patted the flag draped casket as he returned to his seat. That same exact scenario played out with my dad’s flag draped casket and me. I was also moved deeply when Bob Dole struggled to stand and salute the late President but even more so after he sat down. As he stared at the flag atop the coffin, his eyes welled with tears; and he seemed to disappear into his memory. I could only presume his thoughts were of so many years passed and so many friends lost.

I think this week was about more than the death of a former President and Navy pilot. Part of it was the realization that we will never have another president who was involved in the Second World War. I think some of it was knowing that the greatest generation will soon be gone forever. I also think a portion of it was about the late baby boomers who have lost their parents.

The Bush children buried both parents this year. I hope and pray, as do most people of faith, that H.W., Barbara and their child Robin are all, as President Bush said in the eulogy, holding hands, reunited and happy. I wish the same for my parents.

It’s odd how, even as an adult, losing your last living parent can make you feel like an orphan. You’re grown, you can take care of yourself; but when they’re gone, you feel as if you’ve lost your security in the world. There’s no one to bail you out, love you unconditionally or no one to fall back on, even if they were old or infirm when they passed. Although YOU may have been taking care of THEM, deep down you realized THEY were really taking care of YOU; and that immeasurable special sense of security is gone forever.

I once thought the Bush family and mine had NOTHING in common. This week showed me we have EVERYTHING in common. God bless, the Bush family and God rest H.W., Barbara and Robin.

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