Holding back tears has been difficult this week for former President George W. Bush during the 21-gun salute for his father, the chaplain’s prayer as his dad lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda, and amidst the many eulogies commemorating a very full life of service by President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday at the age of 94.
But Vice President Mike Pence brought a smile to 72-year-old Bush’s face during a heartfelt tribute that ranged from a little-known Bible story to an account of what H.W. Bush did for Pence’s own son.
Pence mentioned a biblical account from 2 Samuel 3:22-29 when David was making peace with Abner, the former commander under King Saul and the current commander of an army that was in a bitter rivalry with David’s. But when Abner showed up in peace, David’s commander Joab killed him at the gate.
Despite Abner having led Saul’s army in the king’s longtime efforts to get rid of David, David was deeply grieved when he learned he had been killed and commanded all of his people to mourn over this death.
“Upon the death of Abner, it is written that King David said, ‘Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day?’” Pence said. “George Herbert Walker Bush was such a man.”
“While he was known as ‘the quiet man,’ he was not for lack of nerve or daring,” he continued. “For in all of his 94 years, President Bush never lost his love of adventure, and he never failed to answer the call to serve his country.”
Later in his eulogy, he shared the time when his son Michael “made his first tailhook landing as a Marine aviator on the U.S.S. George Herbert Walker Bush.” Pence wrote H.W. Bush to ask him to autograph a photo of the flight deck as a gift for his son.
Even though the retired president was no longer signing autographs, he made an exception, returning the signed photo and including a personal letter that read, “Congratulations on receiving your 'wings of gold.' I know how proud you and your family are at this moment. Though we have not met, I share the pride your father has for you during this momentous occasion. And I wish you many CAVU days ahead. All the best, G Bush.”
“I would come to learn that that acronym, CAVU for short, is a term Navy pilots have used since World War II,” Pence told the Rotunda audience. “It stands for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.”
“President Bush described CAVU, in his words, as ‘the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific.’ And he once wrote a letter to his children saying that CAVU, in his words, ‘describes my own life as it has been over the years, as it is right now.’ Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited,” he continued.
Pence concluded, “You know, that may well describe the essence of this man. And it may well have been his vision. The vision he had for his life, for his children, his children’s children, and his country: no barriers, no boundaries, no limits.”
The story brought a smile to W. Bush’s face.
Watch Pence tell that story below:
Watch Pence’s entire 11-minute eulogy below:
A public service for H.W. Bush will take place at the National Cathedral in D.C. on Wednesday, according to NBC News. Following that service, his body, will be returned to Houston where it will lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church until Thursday’s private funeral.
The final resting place for his remains will alongside the grave of his wife at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. Our prayers go out to his loved one as they deal with their loss.