Bush gets his wings Sunday
Published: Monday, June 14, 2004
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
Former President Bush waved to the crowd amid the cheers of 5,000 spectators as he landed from his much anticipated parachute jump Sunday over the grounds of the George Bush Presidential Library.
Bush skydived to celebrate his 80th birthday and to show people that age is no reason to slow down one's lifestyle.
"Bush is also jumping today to celebrate the 229th birthday of the U.S. Army and the 227th anniversary of the adoption of the American flag," said Lt. Col. Dave Standridge, commander of the U.S. Army Parachute team, the Golden Knights. "Bush was extremely disappointed that we had to do a tandem jump today, because of all the hours of training he had gone through (to jump solo)," Standridge said.
Because of high winds around the drop zone, the Golden Knights decided it would be best to make the skydive a tandem jump.
Upon landing, Bush was awarded the U.S. Army's basic parachutist badge for successfully completing his fifth parachute jump.
"This badge contains a small bronze star inset in it, which indicates that the wearer has made a combat jump into hostile territory," Standridge said.
Bush parachuted over the Pacific Ocean during World War II when his naval aircraft was shot down near the island of Chi Chi Jima in September 1944.
Bush was excited about his jump and ready to do it again.
"It was a real thrill for me; I had no fear being in the hands of the Golden Knights, the most qualified, the best parachutists we have in the U.S. military," Bush said. "It was absolutely fantastic. I got to jump this morning, and I don't know about going back and asking them if I can do another one a few months from now, but I'm thinking about it."
"It's been a great day, and we're very, very grateful to the Golden Knights," Bush said. Martial arts action star Chuck Norris and Fox News managing editor Brit Hume also made tandem jumps Sunday.
"When President Bush called me last weekend and asked me to jump with him on his 80th birthday, I thought, what a privilege to jump with former President Bush on his birthday and, secondly, to be able to jump with the Golden Knights, the best skydivers in the world!" Norris said. "It was something I've really been looking forward to doing."
Geena Norris, Chuck Norris' wife of six years, said, "I'm glad it's over. This is his fourth jump, but I was very nervous," Geena Norris said. "But boys will be boys..."
Several dignitaries were on hand to watch Bush, including former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of Mexico Carlos Salinas and Florida Gov Jeb Bush.
Gorbachev said that Bush invited him to jump as well.
"George told me this would be simple," Gorbachev said. "He told me he had an extra set of parachutes in case I change my mind, but at my age it might kill me."
Gorbachev spoke highly of the friendship he shared with Bush and of Bush's presidential legacy.
"It was a good friendship...it was a real friendship," Gorbachev said. "He (Bush) is an extremely decent person, which is rare in politics. I believe George Bush was the greatest of my counterparts," Gorbachev said.
Jeb Bush said his father's love of life is part of the reason he has so many supporters.
"My dad loves life," Governor Bush said. I hope we're here celebrating when he's 85."
Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, of CEO Communications, said he was pleased with the day's event.
"We hope that people who attended today's event came away with an appreciation for who this man (Bush) is. He's one of the great statesmen of the 20th century and he's also a down to earth guy," McGrath said.