(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)
President and Mrs. Bush True American Hero's along with our loyal troops.
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.
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.
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
Oh, so NOW Bush doesn't want to hide the troops returning home?
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.
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.
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!
Bush is a Class Act unlike our current President!!!.
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
He should be welcoming them home. He is responsible for them being over there in the first place.
It's the last thing I would want to see if I was coming home from the Middle East.
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.
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
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.
Say what you want about his time in office, but it's good to see anyone doing this. Hopefully more people will
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.
And he's the one who got us into this mess...I wouldn't have shaken hands with him.
Atta boy George!
a real president, who gets it.
I hope "W" apologizes for sending them to an unnecessary war and bankrupting our country.
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.
Did he see the ones in the body bags, too?
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.
Great job Mr. President for these soldiers I'm sure it meant the world.