President George H.W. Bush, who passed away on Friday, and my dad, who passed away in 2005, both served aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific during World War II.
Both went to war in Navy TBM/TBF dive bombers.
Both lived to see America win the greatest war of the 20th century, 1939-1945, and the Cold War, which held the rest of the century by the throat.
Back when my dad passed away, we were losing WW2 veterans at a fast clip. By 2018, such passings are rare, because so few of the “Greatest Generation” are left.
In the most obvious ways, these two men were as different as can be. One was a scion of privilege, the other an impoverished son of hardscrabble immigrants.
They would never meet.
But to me, they shared much. They both joined the fight as soon as they were old enough to serve, over their parents’ objections. Both were lifelong letter-writers. They had high ideals for their country, and poured themselves into raising families and being role models. Both tried for, and appreciated in others, thoughtfulness and decorum, faith and friendship.
President from 1989-1993, Bush was the last to see action in any war. There was a time when most voters valued that kind of experience, not for the bragging rights, but because it was apt to mean that a candidate knew what “public service” really meant. He had faced campaigns other than political ones, he had seen the best and worst of the human condition, had seen and participated in complicated plans and plans that failed, and had done the soberest of self-reflection.
Looking at the current crop of politicians today, are there many—any?—who can be that reflective?
Full lives, well-lived. Rest in peace, Mr. President.
Once you get settled in to your forever home, I know a guy up there with whom you’d have a lot to talk about.