Friday, June 15, 2012

Bush Family Holds Birthday Bash, Visits Namesake Ship

(courtesy photo)
By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
OFF KENNEUNKPORT – The crew of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) got a special treat Sunday when two former Presidents, including the ship’s namesake, came on board for a visit.
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush (41) and George W. Bush (43) took part in special ceremonies and their party toured the Navy’s newest carrier as it lay off Kennebunkport near Martin’s Point, summer home of the Bush family.
“It’s a great honor to be out here,” said George H.W. Bush. “I’m thrilled to be on this vessel that bears my name, and I’m very proud of all of those that re-upped for the service to our great country.”
One of the activities aboard the ship was a mass reenlistment, enlisted advancements, and officer promotions ceremony.
“Today we are honored to have our namesake available to reenlist 77 George H.W. Bush Sailors, promote seven officers to the next rank, and advance Sailors through our Command Advancement Program (CAP),” said Capt. Brian E. Luther, the ship’s commanding officer. “They are the true spirit of this great ship, and as with their namesake, represent the past, the present and the future of our Navy.”
George H.W. Bush was a naval aviator during World War II and was shot down during action in the Pacific. He was 19 at the time of his commissioning and was, at the time, the youngest Naval aviator in the history of the service.
According to Navy spokesmen, Doro Bush Koch, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and other members of the Bush family accompanied the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier during a scheduled training evolution to encourage the crew and heighten their morale.
According to the ship’s web site, the keel for the USS George H.W. Bush was laid in September 2003 and she was commissioned in October of 2006. The carrier is 1,092 feet in length, nearly as long as the Empire State Building is high.
 Following the ceremony, both former presidents took time for photographs with the crew before George W. Bush and family members toured the ship.
The spokesman said that for many crewmembers, this was not only their first opportunity to meet the ship’s namesake, but also two former U.S. presidents.
 “I have been in the Navy for five years and this is something that will go down as one of the top moments of my life,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Zachery McKenzie.
“It’s an honor to be reenlisted by our ship’s namesake. Not many people can say they’ve been re-enlisted by a President. It’s rare.”
The ship is currently in the Atlantic Ocean training for upcoming inspections and certifications.
The helicopter trip to the ship is one of several special occasions for the Bush family during the last week. Friday was Barbara Bush’s 87th birthday and former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 88th birthday Tuesday. He invited 200 friends and family members to a special screening of the new HBO documentary "41," about his time in the White House. He was joined by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
The group watched the film at a makeshift theater built on the grounds of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, now known as the Kennebunkport Playhouse.

(Seaman Benjamin Kelly, public affairs mass communication specialist aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) contributed to this report.)