Military to Take Leading Role in Honoring George H.W. Bush, Whose Life Was 'CAVU'

Former President George H.W. Bush delivers his remarks at the commissioning ceremony for the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Jan. 10, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo)
Former President George H.W. Bush delivers his remarks at the commissioning ceremony for the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Jan. 10, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo)

The nation prepared Sunday for the state funeral and tributes to the late President George H.W. Bush, with the U.S. military taking a leading role in honoring the last commander-in-chief to serve in World War II.

The military's role will have particular significance for the events, the Bush family noted as it shared a quote from the late president on lessons he learned in the Navy, which served as a guide for the rest of his life.

"In the Navy, we young pilots all prayed for CAVU -- Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited. But, you see, that is where my life is now. Thanks to my family and my friends, my life is CAVU," Bush said on his 80th birthday.

In 2009, at the commissioning of his namesake Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the George H.W. Bush, the former president said, "My Navy days taught me the true meaning of friendship and of freedom. And looking back, I love my time serving in the Navy, the three years, aboard the San Jacinto, CVL 30, flying in Torpedo Squadron 51. And they made a man out of a scared kid."

As has been done for the passing of previous presidents, the military's participation will include bands, family escorts, color guards, salute batteries, honor cordons and casket bearers, according to Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region (JFH-NCR).

JFH-NCR has set up a task force to coordinate the ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and in Houston, where Bush died Friday at age 94.

The task force will consist of about 4,000 military and civilian personnel from all branches of the U.S. armed forces, including Reserve and National Guard components. The task force is responsible for ceremonial and civil affairs support in the tributes to Bush, a naval aviator who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in the Pacific in World War II.

Related: 'Fair Winds And Following Seas, Mr. President,' Former Pres. Bush Remembered

"We, the men and women of the Department of Defense, are honored and proud to support the Bush family, and will do so with the utmost respect," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael L. Howard, commander of JFH-NCR and the Military District of Washington.

"This state funeral is a culmination of years of planning and rehearsal to ensure the support the military renders President Bush is nothing less than a first-class tribute," Howard said in a statement Saturday.

JFH-NCR said the military's part in the events will be conducted in three stages. The first will involve ceremonies in Houston. Stage II will focus on ceremonies in Washington, D.C. And Stage III will involve ceremonies for Bush's interment in Houston.

The casket bearing Bush's body is expected to arrive in Washington on Monday evening to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol for public viewing until Wednesday morning, when a funeral is scheduled at Washington National Cathedral. The Bush family and the casket will return to Houston for the interment following the funeral.

President Donald Trump has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning, during which flags will be lowered to half-staff on all public buildings and military installations. All federal agencies also will be closed Wednesday in a "mark of respect" to the late president, according to an executive order from the White house.

Despite his past feuds with the Bush family, Trump on Saturday called the late president a "truly wonderful man," and said he would attend the funeral Wednesday.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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