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JBA personnel bid a final farewell to George H.W. Bush

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs

The remains of George H.W. Bush arrived at JBA aboard Air Force One here Dec. 3. Roughly 48 hours later, the distinguished aircraft carried its distinguished cargo once again -- this time back to Texas, Bush's permanent resting place.

The 11th Wing, along with members of several JBA tenant units and Air Force District of Washington headquarters, began preparing for state funeral ceremonies immediately upon hearing of Bush's death late last Friday.

“I am thankful for our Airmen who respond at a moment’s notice when the need arises,” said Col. Andrew Purath, Joint Base Andrews and 11th Wing commander. “It was a joint effort in making all the pieces come together to honor a leader who has done so much for our country.”

In all, nearly 4,000 military and civilian personnel from across all branches of the U.S. armed forces, including reserve and National Guard components, provided ceremonial support during George H.W. Bush’s state funeral.

On Monday, a joint team comprising ceremonial guardsmen from each service and The U.S. Air Force Band conducted the state funeral arrival ceremony on the JBA flight line.

Additionally, given Bush's status as a former Navy pilot and namesake for an active-duty aircraft carrier, the Bush family requested that a group of 115 sailors attend the ceremony, leading to a memorable moment for many in attendance.

"One of the memories I will always cherish is standing alongside a joint team of Sailors from the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush and Airmen from the 11th Wing, as former President George W. Bush walked past after the arrival ceremony,” said Col. Kathryn Brown, Joint Team Andrews commander during state funeral operations and commander of the 11th Operations Group. “The [43rd] president looked over to the formation to thank the team in the most genuine and heartfelt way.” 

The casket was then transported by motorcade to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, where the former president lay in state from 5 p.m. Tuesday until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Bush's remains were then transported to the Washington National Cathedral for the official state funeral, attended by current President Donald J. Trump, along with former presidents Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and, of course, Bush's son, George W. Bush.

Afterward, the JBA joint team received the casket once again for the departure ceremony, during which the 41st president's remains were placed back aboard Air Force One for the final homebound flight.

The U.S. Air Force Band performed the hymn “Goin’ Home."

Bush was 94 when he died in Houston, Texas, seven months after his late wife, Barbara.

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear dad has died,” George W. Bush said in a media release the night of his father's death. “George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

Bush's remains will lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where his wife's funeral was held in April. He will later be laid to rest next to Barbara and their daughter, Robin.