(CNSNews.com) - Vice President Mike Pence described former President George H.W. Bush as a “quiet man” who was “never lost his love of adventure” and “never failed to answer the call to serve his country.”
“The Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn and grieve with those who grieve, and today on behalf of the first family and my family and the American people, we offer our deepest sympathies and respects to your family. And we thank you for sharing this special man with our nation and the world,” Pence said during a ceremony as the former president’s body lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
“Today, President Bush becomes the 32nd American to lie in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda. Soon, Americans from every corner of the country and every walk of life will make their way to this Rotunda to pay their respects of a grateful nation,” the vice president said.
“While he was known as the quiet man, it was not for lack of nerve or daring, for in all of his 94 years, President Bush never lost his love of adventure, and he never failed to answer the call to serve his country, Pence said as he recounted Bush’s military service.
“Born into a tradition of public service, George Herbert Walker Bush began his own life of service when he was still in high school. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, he wanted to do his part, so he enlisted in the United States Navy on his 18th birthday. On receiving his wings, he became the nation’s youngest naval aviator and was sent to the South Pacific where his story almost ended,” Pence said.
During a bombing raid in 1944, Bush’s engine caught fire, “but he still managed to hit his target before bailing out and being rescued by American forces after some four hours at sea,” the vice president said.
“All told, he flew 58 combat missions, and for his bravery under fire, he earned the distinguished Flying Cross, which would have been enough honor for any American life. George Herbert Walker Bush was just getting started,” Pence said. “After he came home, he staked his claim to a booming post-war America by making a name for himself in the oil business.
“For 4 years, he walked these halls as a congressman from Houston. President Nixon took notice of the young Texan and asked him to be our ambassador to the United Nations. He led our party during a tumultuous time for the presidency, and after earning the respect of another president, he did the work of a diplomat as the first United States envoy to China and led the CIA,” Pence continued.
“And then for eight years, George Herbert Walker Bush served as the 43rd vice president of the United States. I’m told as he was preparing to become vice president, he once joked about the job, saying that there was ‘nothing substantive to do all,’” Pence said, prompting laughter from the audience.
“But as history records, during those years, he set the standard as a sound counselor and loyal adviser to an outsider who came to Washington, D.C. to shake things up, cut takes, rebuild the military, and together, they did just that,” he said.
“And then in 1988, he made history again when George Herbert Walker Bush was elected in a landslide as the 41st president of the United States of America, becoming the first sitting vice president to win the presidency in more than 150 years of our history,” Pence said.
“He served during an uncertain time in the world, made momentous by his leadership. President Bush oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, and under his leadership, American won the Cold War. He took our nation to war to repel aggression in the Persian Gulf and through his leadership as commander-in-chief and the brilliance of our armed forces, the United States won a decisive victory,” he said.
“When President George Herbert Walker Bush left office, he left America and the world more peaceful, prosperous and secure. President Bush was a great leader who made a great difference in the life of this nation, but he was also just a good man,” the vice president said.
Pence said he was lucky enough to meet Bush in 1988 when Bush served as vice president while Pence was a 29-year-old just getting into politics.
“Then as always, I was struck by his approachability. There was a kindness about the man that was evident to everyone who ever met him. All his years in public service were characterized by kindness, modesty, and patriotism,” Pence said.
Bush “was so modest, in fact, that he never wrote an autobiography,” Pence noted, “but he did leave a record of his life in the thousands of letters that he wrote.”
The vice president also recounted the time that Bush wrote to Pence’s son, sharing in Pence’s pride for Pence’s making his first “tailhook landing as a Marine aviator on the USS George Herbert Walker Bush.”