(CNN) - Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush surprised 145 troops returning home from war Wednesday, greeting them at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
The service members, most returning for a two-week break, arrived on a charter flight expecting to be met by the Dallas-based Welcome Home A Hero organization.
But waiting with the crowd at the international arrivals section were the smiling former president and first lady. "We didn't tell them at all what was going on," said the leader of the welcoming group, Lt. Col. Patrick McAfee. "It was shock and awe when they walked in the double doors."
Most of the returning service members are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Bush, David Sherzer, said they were "honored" to take part in the welcome. "President Bush often says that he doesn't miss much about being the President, but he does miss being the Commander in Chief of an incredible group of men and women", he said.
"It was a remarkable, incredible feeling for them, seeing the former commander in chief taking time to greet them," McAfee said.
Bush handed each of the service members his commander-in-chief coin and posed for pictures for everyone. Photos from the event showed the surprise on the faces of many of the troops.
"For the first time in my life, I was star struck," McAfee said. "He obviously still loves the military."
The Bushes joined with more than 30 youth football players through the Slant 45 organization to take part in the ceremony. The group is part of the Super Bowl community program in advance of the 2011 Super Bowl at Arlington, Texas.
"It was just a great lift of our spirits" for the welcoming committee, McAfee said. The group welcomes troops home whenever their flights return, no matter the hour. "We sometimes have people in pajamas and robes in the middle of the night."
(Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET)
Good job "Mr. President" and 'First Lady".
What a joke! Bush's efforts to enrich the corporates have gotten 50,000 U.S. soldiers needlessly wounded or killed in Iraq, while his failure to prosecute the war in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops were abandoned without a mission, leadership or a strategy from 2002 to 2009, has cost the U.S. any chance of winning.
Good for you, Mr & Mrs Bush. I was against going to Iraq, but for all the military who've stood and fought for us, I'm sure it was an honor to be greeted by the former prez & his wife.
It would have been more appreciative if he showed that respect when he was in office.He would not even allow photos of returning caskets draped in a flag.
I would never shake the hand of the man that sent almost 6,000 American troops to die for nothing In Afghanistan and Iraq!
Former President Bush has shown a lot of class since the election by not getting caught up in all of the ridiculous tactics of the neo-cons who now rule the republican party. He will be better remembered because of acts of kindness like this.
Very classy Mr Bush.
Welcoming our troops home is a great idea. It sets a great perspective for their return.
Hopefully all of them will be home from Afghanistan because they were successful in their mission just like they are in Iraq.
Too little too late Mr. Bush.
It's a shame that Mr. Bush never saw the need to take the time to welcome home those who died as the result of his poor decisions. He's a small man today – just as he was when he started 2 needless wars leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands.
It's nice to see some true leadership showing the way instead of just talking !!
say what you will about his term as president, but GW Bush has been, is and will remain a class act.
Well, I just think it is wonderful that President Bush and Laura were at DFW to meet the troops. We have alot of different groups here in Dallas who meet and greet the troops at DFW. The Telephone Pioneers are there several times a month. I think the troops appreciate all the people who come out to welcome them home. Today was a real treat for our troops.
welcoming them from those two infamous wars????...I thought the MISSION was ACCOMPLISHED a long time ago, it must be that elections are near......
Thank you, Mr. Bush.
Way to go Mr. President! You are sorely missed.
He and Laura are wonderful people. He has never spoken out again Obama, has remained quiet concerning the horrible economy we're facing. He doesn't publiize ahead of time that he's going to the airport to greet the troops, just does it in his own quiet way.
Can't stand George Bush but this was a pretty great thing to do!
Now that is CLASS! President and Mrs. Bush are first-class through and through. Still showing their appreciation for our men and women who serve this country.
WELCOME home HEROES,enjoy your two weeks to the fullest,keep safe here and upon returning to the war theaters. GOD BLESS!!!!!! froma fellow vet.
YES, i am sure they were overjoyed to see the man that sent them on the wild goose chase that killed many of their brothers...OH JOY! Its a surprise like waking up on Christmas to find your husbands gift was divorce papers...Im sure it was that kind of surprise!
The soldier looks like he's trying to get away.
Thanks to all the men and women that served this country and did what they were asked to do !!!
that's more than he ever did in office
The Bush Bashing for almost all of the 8 years of his administration and now the daily bashing from Obama is undeserved by this Former President and the First Lady. They are a compassionate caring couple with class. He never defends himself against all the vulgar rantings and didn't during his tenure as our President.
Way to go Mr. President...
oh... and just for the record... This country has serious buyers remorse... you know... the guy who blames you for everything... because he's done nothing positive he can mention
Enjoy the retirement