Last week Lassen County residents and the rest of the nation bid a solemn, respectful and heartfelt adieu to the nation’s 41st president, George H. W. Bush, 94, who died last week on Friday, Nov. 30. We observed a national day of mourning Wednesday, Dec. 5.
It seemed as if every television outlet reported extensively on his life story and covered every aspect of his funeral. Among the most poignant moments were the salute from Bob Dole, 95, a longtime U.S. senator who also was the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in 1996 and a candidate competing for the highest seat in the nation against Bush in the 1988 Republican Party primaries.
Dole, like Bush, was a member of “the greatest generation,” young Americans who answered the nation’s call after the Dec. 7 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, fought in World War II and defeated the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, Japan and others around the world in less than four years. Both men shared the horrors of war.
Dole was hit by machine gun fire during an April 1945 battle in the Apennine Mountains in Italy and suffered permanent injuries. He received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with a V for valor.
Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 on his 18th birthday. He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down near the Bonin Islands and rescued by a U.S. submarine Sept. 2, 1944. His fellow crewmember died when his parachute failed to open. Several of those shot down during the raid were executed and their livers eaten by their captors.
Although he was still a young man, a bright future of public service lay before him.
After the war, he graduated from Yale in 1949 and moved to Texas and founded a successful oil company, the Zapata Petroleum Corporation, and he became a millionaire by age 40.
He served two terms in the House of Representatives.
In 1971 President Richard Nixon appointed him as ambassador to the United Nations, and he because chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973.
In 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed him as chief of the Liaison Office in China and later as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
President Ronald Reagan selected him as his running mate in 1980, despite Bush’s run for that seat in the primaries.
After two terms as vice president, he served as president of the United States from 1989 to 1993, succeeding Ronald Reagan and preceding Bill Clinton.
A war veteran, Bush oversaw military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf, and led the nation during the end of the Cold War.
He also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1991.
His bid for a second term failed, partly, according to some pundits, because he went back on his promise not to raise taxes.
His son, George W. Bush, served two terms as president after Clinton, making them the second father-son pair to serve as president.
Throughout his life, Bush dedicated himself to the service of his countrymen. We are right to recognize his many accomplishments and bid a found farewell to a man the likes of which we rarely see.