On Wednesday, I got an email from a Fox News producer who asked me if I had a personal relationship with former President George H. W. Bush. My response was simple, yes, I did. It was not a personal relationship that civilians would understand, but it was one that is forever binding. I responded that we had a personal relationship because we both had served this nation in combat. As well, President Bush had been my Commander-in-Chief when I was a young captain in the First Infantry Division, deployed to Operation Desert Shield and Storm.
Additionally, President George H. W. Bush fought in World War II just like my own dad. As I listened to President George W. Bush eulogize his dad, I remembered the homegoing service for my dad, Herman West, Sr. back in 1986. US Army Corporal West was born in 1920, and, yes, was a member of the Greatest Generation. No, my dad did not go on to become the President of these United States. But, he was my role model, a pillar of strength, a soldier, a Veteran of a Foreign War.
That’s one of the things that I pondered as I watched the ceremony for Bush 41. I thought about that heroic gesture from former US Senator from Kansas, Bob Dole, to struggle and rise from his wheelchair to render a hand salute to a fellow combat wounded World War II veteran. The passing of Bush 41 is more than being just about him, it is about the passing of a generation. It is about the passing of those men who in four years endeavored to rid the world of the horrific scourges of Nazism, Japanese imperialism, and Italian fascism.
Yesterday we witnessed a piece of history, truly the end of an era. We will never have another member of the Greatest Generation to ever be President of these United States of America. Nor we will have a follow-on member of the Korean War generation, nor the Vietnam War generation to be President of these United States.
What we should remember is that once upon a time, service to our nation in uniform was an unwritten prerequisite to being President. America yearned for larger than life heroes, men who had been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and had displayed impeccable leadership and steadfast dedication to our nation when it was needed the most.
As a matter of fact, it was not too long ago, 50 years or so, that most congressmen and senators had served this nation in uniform. Heck, many Hollywood stars had served in uniform as an example. So what has happened in America, why do we now want the shiny cute charismatic empty suit politician? I think about the Saturday Night Live skit where a decorated US Navy SEAL who lost his right eye in an IED attack in combat was disparaged. Sure, there was an on-air apology and Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw was invited onto SNL . . . but what type of chucklehead thought doing such a parody was funny in the first place?
Can any of you imagine someone making light humor of Audie Murphy? Doggone, how many of our kids even know who Audie Murphy was?
Bush 41’s passing should make us revisit a very important question: does America want leaders and statesmen anymore, or just gimmicky charlatans with cute media slogans like “Yes We Can,” and “Beto?”
President George H. W. Bush ensured that liberty and freedom were bestowed upon an entire generation of people who never knew it. I am not talking about the folks in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. I am talking about all those who had been trapped behind the “Iron Curtain.” He delivered on his predecessor’s charge to tear down that wall. How funny that today, in America, the very same philosophy of governance that thrived behind that curtain is now being openly advocated for in our America? That is made possible because we are not teaching our kids about the service and sacrifices of those who stood of freedom’s ramparts until that wall came down.
What President George H. W. Bush did, for which we should be ever thankful, was to heal a deep wound in this nation. Our victory in Operation Desert Shield and Storm restored the love, admiration, and respect of this nation to our military. Thanks to President Bush 41 we were finally able to say, “Welcome Home,” not just to those of us who participated in that combat operation in 1991, but to those who did not hear those words coming home from Vietnam, like my older brother. Lance Corporal Herman West, Jr. enlisted — he was not drafted — and became a Marine Corps Infantryman who, like my dad was combat wounded at a place called Khe Sanh. It was also my father-in-law, US Army Master Sergeant Keith Graham, an Infantryman, who did not hear those words. I will never forget him telling me “welcome back” when I landed back in Ft. Riley, Kansas and got to our apartment. MSG Graham is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, a rightful place.
President George H.W. Bush only served for one term but his legacy will be remembered all across the globe. I met Bush 41 and Mrs. Bush at a Texas A&M game a few years back. Shaking his hand was a memorable experience. I know the tears I shed when my dad passed away. Yesterday, the ceremony marking the passing of this impeccable representative of the Greatest Generation caused tears to well up in my eyes.
I pray that God will bless America with another Warrior Statesman and leader in our lifetime.
During his 22 year career in the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel West served in several combat zones and received many honors including a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, one with Valor device, and a Valorous Unit Award.
In November of 2010, Allen was elected to the United States Congress, representing Florida’s 22nd District.
West is a commissioned officer in the Texas State Guard. He’s Fox News Contributor, former Director of the Booker T. Washington Initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center, contributing columnist for Townhall.com, and author of Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Family, Faith and Freedom, and, Hold Texas, Hold the Nation: Victory or Death, and the forthcoming We Can Overcome.