(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)
How did they answer the soldiers when they ask why they were risking their lives for Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist...
Why didn't the Bush girls join their father's war , and why if the mission was accomplished like George said, didn't the soldiers come home...and since they have the surplus money from Clinton term in office , why are the jobs gone and we are in debt
Like the troops have any choice. Many would rather walk right by rather than let this horrible couple use them for yet more photo opts. They will get in trouble if they don't stand and smile and we all know it.
The Bush's are an American Disgrace and have earned that title over many generations.
Gee nice of him, did he get a conscience after he left office.
The Bush's did this because they wanted to AND because they thought it was the right thing to do. The current POTUS and his Spain-trotting 1st lady could definitely learn something about class and respect from the former!
That's the LEAST Bush should do since he started the Iraq War, put on a flight suit and banner and declared Mission Accomplished before it really was. Some fascist dictator also put on a military uniform and declared victory in Stalingrad not long ago.
You go Mr. President and we want you back
Sure, he'll go welcome them back as long as they don't come home in a box. He NEVER ONCE welcomed back a single dead soldier, there was no photo op for that I guess.
Class act. He/she have no more political aspirations, so how can this be interpreted as anything other than sincerity?
Thank you Mr. Bush for taking the difficult moral high road, for doing what you perceived to be right despite the naysayers and the views of those less enlightened. The fact that you still care and show it validates your position and those of us that understand it. There aren't many that "get it" in life and some are morally guided to make the world better even if it is perceived to be self serving. While I wasn't always satisfied with the outcome or the delivery of your agenda, I remain confident that your desires were not only noble but as benevolent as possible.
Wonder if the soldiers were thinking "Thank you Mr Bush for wasting 6 years of my life for a useless war that has now bankrupt the country"
What a classy ex-president! Maligned constantly by his successor he nevertheless continues to remain above the fray and shows qualities which reveal why so many people still love and respect him. Well done, Mr President.
Well, thats a nice change... considering he couldn't be bothered to meet the flights carrying the remains of dead soldiers coming back to the US... like every other president has done.
W's the man! Go Mr. President!
HooYaa President Bush ! We miss your 400 billion deficits . God help us if obama finds out what comes after a trillion.
I love George Bush. I trusted him...he is a good person and he continues to be a great human being. Did I agree with everything he did while he was in office....no....but as far as presidents go....he's one of the best IMO.
Man I would have loved to have been there to meet the President. Like him or not he still was Our President and evil racist liberals should respect this.
:( What Nerve ! ! Has Bush any shame at all. !!! He's the reason for all the heart break in America. I hope they wallked right by him and ignored him !! Remeber Bush sleeps like a baby– no guilt at all !! I have no respect at all for him or Cheney !! I know the soldiers had to show respect for him . The soldiers are in my thoughts and prayers. We need our soldiers home !! :) Enough with the rich getting richer over the wars !!
Troops must be elated to be able to shake hands with an American president once again.
This couple has class. Even though President Obama is trying to blame Bush for everything instead of being a man and taking ownership after 18 months. The Obama's are taking trips on our dime left and right, the Bushes took time for themselves... they went mostly to a ranch they owned!!!
Let us not forget that the Democrats have had control of the house and Senate for 4 years and the President can not get anything passed without the 2 groups of people.
Oh how appalling and nauseatingly noble-
This sorry substitute for a man deployed thousands of our kids to die for a deceitful lie and for no other reason than to avenge daddy's shortcomings in Kuwait and enrich cheesy's coffers.
He should greet the mournful and final exit of those coming home in flag draped coffins at Dover AFB.
What a coward and dearth of a president.
Go away George, its to late to change your ratings.
Class act. Thank You Mr. President and Mrs. Bush.
Tell Bush not to come to Airport let he sleep in his own bush. He is the cause for this wonderful country destruction in terms of many american soldiers and Iraques half million civils and economicaly destruction of the country not only monetary but the psychological loss of 10% Americans who lost their jobs and life dependant sources. He is a very stupid person send by -- fo rnothing. It is sad. I hope the country will come to its place at the top of the mountain.
Say what you will about Bush's judgment on a host of issues, or about his stubbornness in sticking to his beliefs.
You can't say he has EVER failed to act with the dignity befitting a former president, and you can't say he doesn't sincerely love, respect and honor the men and women who wear the uniform.
One thing that will begin to heal this nation is when the left acknowledges some of Bush's legitimate virtues, of which there are many.
Who knows, such talk from the left might actually trigger some generosity of tone from the right about Mr. Obama.
I'm a libertarian, which means I have plenty of problems with both the extreme left that supported Bush and the extreme right that supports Obama. But we all should try to tone it down a bit and give credit where it is due.
I bet ti was a big surprise to see the man who sent you into a war that was a total lie. I'm more surprised one soldier did not punch his lights out.