Bush remembered those who paid ultimate price

To the editor:

In November 1992, I was fortunate to be assigned as a student in the Marine Advanced Staff Non-commissioned Officer’s Course in Quantico, Va.

As Veterans Day was a national holiday, there were no classes. Because I was far away from my normal duty station at the time, it didn’t make sense to go too far, and, with Washington D.C. just up the road, I decided to drive up and take a leisurely scoot around town.

So, when classes ended on that day before, I took off northward. I hit the Iwo Jima Memorial, a couple other sites, and about 11 p.m. ended up walking the mall and eventually paused at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

On that particular date, some group had arranged to have people come and read over a public address system each of the names on the wall, a task that takes more than two days, and they’d already started. (I’ve since learned they only do this every 10 years or so because of the coordination required.)

It was clear and cold, yet there was a church-like warmth about the area, paths in and around lit by low lights. About two or three hundred people milled about, many vets joining their brothers in arms … family members out to remember the fallen … while every 10 minutes or so a new speaker would step to the mic to read another group of names…

Now if you remember, Veterans Day falls on the 11th every year, which was just over a week since the 1992 elections on the 3rd.

The nation had in that election decided that our next president would be Bill Clinton, much to the surprise of many of us conservatives and most in the military.

After about an hour at the Wall, watching, listening and trying to absorb the moment, I went back to the car to drive a bit more and warm up. I ended up back at the wall sometime around 2:30 a.m. The crowd had thinned, just a bit, but the somber, church-like atmosphere remained … and the readers continued working through the list of those who did not survive the conflict.

Quite uneventfully, the next speaker began working down his list … but there was something familiar. Without fanfare, without a media presence, George Herbert Walker Bush had emerged from the White House residence, grabbed two Secret Service agents, and the trio walked down to the wall so that the president might contribute to the observance.

No speech. No grandstanding. Just an American offering his reverence at the sacrifice so many had made for our nation.

Despite his low key appearance, the sound of his voice galvanized the crowd, which drew near the speakers’ platform, and after a few minutes calls from the crowd echoed support for the now lame duck president. I think the Secret Service guys were getting a bit antsy at the attention, and probably a bit prematurely ushered the president back on the way to the residence. Those moments remain with me to this day.

Much changed for me personally, and the for the nation at that time. I can only wonder what might be today had President Bush been elected to a second term. But I know for sure that no matter what, he’d have been there, a simple, respectful man, recalling the names of those who gave their lives for the will of the nation.

Gunnery Sgt. James Martin

USMC (Retired)