Like the rest of America, I watched the funeral services for our forty-first president and found them to be reflective of the man: elegant, restrained, intelligent, classy, and tremendously dignified. The eulogies and anecdotes covered a wide swathe of achievements, from school to military service to public service, touching most of all on his devotion and loyalty to his family and legions of friends, accounts sometimes profoundly moving, frequently very funny. It was a good life, with all ninety-four years of it well-lived.
H.W. was the last president we shall ever see who came out of what Tom Brokaw so accurately labeled the Greatest Generation. He was the last true warrior president, and though I dislike that phrase, I both understand and appreciate the qualities active military duty imbues in those who have seen combat.
But amid the tears and laughter, it was this brief quote I ran across in the Wall Street Journal that reduced me to a pulp:
“Bush is a revered figure in the Navy, especially among aviators, who marvel that he enlisted on his 18th birthday and flew 58 dangerous missions. His name graces one of America’s newest aircraft carriers, commissioned in 2009. The Navy saluted its departed comrade Saturday with this message: Fair winds and following seas, Sir. We have the watch.“