Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hail to the Chief!

I had an awesome opportunity yesterday that most people never get. I got to see the President! (This was actually my second time seeing the President; the first was when he came to Oklahoma Christian University while I was in school there. I got to sit right behind him in the band.) Anyway, yesterday was the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute to President Bush. They had a lottery drawing for tickets for each of the Services and my name was drawn.

It wasn't a great venue. They held it at Ft Myer in a building that looked like a converted gymnasium. Imagine a gym with seating on 3 of the four sides of the court (one long side without). The President, First Lady, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were seated in nice chairs right at mid-court at, like, Row Zero. The Vice President, all the four-stars, retired four-stars, and their wives were seated right behind them. We were then placed to the left and right of them down the long side of the court, filling up the goal ends as well. As I sat down, I thought, clearly, there was a bonus for getting there "late" as those folks in the "endzones" (what do you call those on a basketball court anyway?) had the best camera views. The court area itself was filled with all the ceremonial units -- each of the service Honor Guards, the Army Band, and The Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps -- that presented themselves and then did a pass in review. Check out the picture below.

After the introductory ceremonial honors were done, President Bush was presented with a couple of medals and a set of ten battle streamers from units that deployed in support of the Global War on Terror. Mrs. Bush was presented with a DOD Public Service award.

The final part, of course, involved speeches from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen, and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. They lauded the President's moral courage to respond decisively following the September 11th attacks and to continue operations when it was the right thing to do -- even after it was no longer popular. They commented that, largely because of his leadership, we've seen no more terrorist attacks inside the US following 9/11, we gave women in Afghanistan more rights and education than was previously allowed, and established the foundations for democracy in Iraq in a shorter amount of time than it took to stand up America's own democratic government. ADM Mullen shared comments from servicemembers recorded in a journal, extolling the President for his strong support for them and his personal care, concern, and visits to the wounded. One also praised him for being quick on his feet and that next time he should throw the shoe back!

For his part, President Bush responded humbly that he was deeply indebted to the men and women that had served -- that he couldn't accept the praise given him without giving an equal amount back. He marveled at how time and again, servicemembers had selflessly given of themselves to preserve peace and democracy across the globe.

He was truly humble and personable -- even in this very formal setting. He was authentic -- one of the things that made it easy to serve under him as Commander-in-Chief. The lighting was bad, the seating wasn't optimal, and I didn't get to shake his hand, but I did get some pretty good pictures. I also got to honor the man I've enjoyed serving for the last eight years. He'll be missed.


  1. I agree. It takes a certain kind of man to be able to lead a country during the turmoil that our country has experienced these past 8 years. Not many could stand up to constant scrutiny of all of our actions and words by a critical society that loves to hate and still make moment by moment decisions that affect the lives of millions, if not billions of people...in a thoughtful and prayerful way like President Bush did. Many people demonize and disrespect him, but I am thankful he held our country up and reminded us that God is in charge at a time when we could have disintigrated into fear and chaos. I hope history will be kinder to him than a lot of Americans and others have been.

  2. What an honor to be able to attend such a ceremony for Pres Bush!! Great pictures!!

  3. What a neat day. I, too, am thankful to Pres Bush for keeping us safe since 9/11. It saddens me that so many people (a loud segment of our society, not necessarily the majority) are disrespecting him and some of the things they say are downright mean. I believe he was a good president under a VERY HARD tenure. I hope Obama will be a good president. I didn't vote for him and wish McCain had been voted in, but be that as it may, I am praying for Obama to listen to wise counsel and make good decisions on our behalf.

    Yeah, it was exciting seeing Bush 41 back at OC in 1992.