August 12th, 2010
04:37 PM ET
4 years ago

George and Laura Bush surprise returning troops

Former President George W. Bush surprised soldiers returning home mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday.
Former President George W. Bush surprised soldiers returning home mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday.

(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)


Filed under: Afghanistan • George W. Bush • Iraq • issues
soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. Rogerd

    President and Mrs. Bush True American Hero's along with our loyal troops.

    August 12, 2010 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  2. Bessy

    This is the very least he could do. I guess his guilty conscience is getting to him. He is the one who started this whole thing and he is responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries of the military and the citizens of the country. I , personally, will never forgive him.

    August 12, 2010 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  3. Steve

    Have to give George Bush credit for welcoming our troops home which is more than you can say about Obama! Obama doesn't care about our troops. If fact, he doesn't care about the United States of America.

    August 12, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. Rick

    How Ironic a draft dodger who started a senseless war sending thousands to their death. He should get as far away from any serviceman as he can. Bush's oil war

    August 12, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. Eli

    Oh, so NOW Bush doesn't want to hide the troops returning home?

    August 12, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  6. Pete MacVean

    Typical George W. Bush, no fanfare, no big press deal, just a man and wife who feel deeply and in a very genuine manner. A couple who does not think they are special, but who recognize what special people are service men and women are. Thank you W, for all that you did and continue to do.

    August 12, 2010 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  7. Chino

    A class act who doesnt crave the spotlight. These photos are from a random soldiers facebook set up. Bush cared less if people knew he was there or not. I would be surprised if CNN leaves this story on here tomorrow morning when people are actually on here.

    August 12, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  8. A Class Act

    What a class act!!!! Since leaving office, this man has remained quiet and above ALL others. I know it's been hard listening (or not) to all of the "Bush Bashing" but please know that we admire you for the graceful composure that you display! Thanks, Mr. President!

    August 12, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  9. Right Leaning Independent

    Bush is a Class Act unlike our current President!!!.

    August 12, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  10. R.I.P. Damon

    Great story...let's see our current commander-in-chief squeeze something like this into his busy schedule in between talk show visits and pick-up basketball games

    August 12, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  11. Heather

    He should be welcoming them home. He is responsible for them being over there in the first place.

    August 12, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Pat

    It's the last thing I would want to see if I was coming home from the Middle East.

    August 12, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  13. Comrade Bush

    Too bad he is the traitor of our country who started an unnecessary war that has no end in sight. I commend him for his publicity stunt, very endearing. Thank God he is no longer our President... what a creep.

    August 12, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  14. Dennis 2547

    He the former President Bush has finally done something worthwhile since he left office. Guess he spends more time down on his ranch which wouldn't surprise me as he spent more days there during his eight years in office than any other President in modern history. Nice photo op...........................
    A retired US Army veteran

    August 12, 2010 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  15. barry

    Whether you like the guy or not, he is true to what he believes in. He is not a professional politician, he's a real person, what you see is what you get. Kind of refreshing to see after the bad acting job we see daily now.

    Barry

    August 12, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  16. Tim

    Say what you want about his time in office, but it's good to see anyone doing this. Hopefully more people will

    August 12, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  17. TomInTX

    I didn't like G. W. Bush at all when he was president. However, he is growing on me. It's a nice symbolic gesture.

    When he was president, he wasn't even trying to justify the means necessitated by the circumstances, and people questioned his concern for ethics and democracy. Pres Obama discusses these ethical issues a lot, but his solutions look a lot like those of G. W. Bush.

    August 12, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  18. Big John

    And he's the one who got us into this mess...I wouldn't have shaken hands with him.

    August 12, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  19. Freeloader

    Atta boy George!

    August 12, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  20. ronald malaney

    a real president, who gets it.

    August 12, 2010 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  21. False conspiracy fears are GOP Taliban tactics

    I hope "W" apologizes for sending them to an unnecessary war and bankrupting our country.

    August 12, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  22. lily1

    I didn't like some of his policies but he was a great commander-in-chief and he shows class to go welcome soldiers home.

    August 12, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  23. Patriot

    Did he see the ones in the body bags, too?

    August 12, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  24. Hannah

    If I were those troops, I would want to hit Bush over the head for what he did to them and our country. He certainly has gall to even do this. All the time he was in office and the dead were coming home, he didn't even acknowledge them.

    August 12, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  25. key

    Great job Mr. President for these soldiers I'm sure it meant the world.

    August 12, 2010 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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