PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- President George W. Bush took time out during his return trip to Washington D.C. to visit with Pearl Harbor survivors and military veterans at the USS Arizona Memorial and aboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial Oct. 23.
"It was short, but pleasant," said retired Navy Capt. Charles B. Crockett. Crockett graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 and served in Korea and Vietnam. Crockett was on hand at the Missouri during the president's visit. "He seemed very personable. I'm glad to have him back in the country safe and sound ."
Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Harold Estes, a well-known local Navy veteran, got a little more personal with the president during their short conversation.
"When we met, I gave him a business card and told him I was from Oklahoma and that Oklahoma beat Texas in a recent college football game," Estes said with his trademark grin. "He laughed and said I was wrong. He said Oklahoma didn't beat Texas - Oklahoma pounded Texas."
Before meeting with the veterans and survivors, Bush toured Pearl Harbor. Sailors aboard ships stood at attention as the president passed by. He then followed in the footsteps of every president since John F. Kennedy, as he stopped at the Arizona Memorial to lay a wreath and drop a flower in the memorial well.
The president was then escorted to the pier at the bow of Missouri. He saluted as he passed an assembly of Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen who had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I'm very glad that the president came," said Photographer's Mate 1st Class (SEAL) Mim Warlic of Seal Delivery Vehicle Team 1. "I've always been a big supporter of the president. I voted for him and I think he's right on with how he's handled Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom."
"It's a great opportunity for the fleet to see him," said Torpedoman's Mate 3rd Class (SS) Joshua Williams, stationed aboard USS Louisville (SSN 724). "I've only been in the Navy for two and a half years and to be able to see the president is a dream come true for me."
After seeing service members and meeting veterans, Bush toured the interior of Missouri, marveling at the ship on which World War II ended. He also held a brief with Commander Pacific Command Adm. Thomas Fargo and his component commanders in the Pacific before leaving the Pearl Harbor area to attend a fundraiser at the Hilton Hawaiian village for his upcoming re-election campaign.
"It was absolutely exciting. What else can I say?" marveled Retired Navy Capt. Don Hess, president and chief operating officer of USS Missouri Memorial Association. "I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. I then let him know that the two staff members and 10 volunteers I had with me represented over 35,000 Missouri volunteers. He said he was very impressed and appreciated everything that's being done for the ship."
Thursday's visit came at the end of an eight-day visit to Asia. His stop in Hawaii was the president's first stop in the U.S. since his tour began.
Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) Richard Curry was the personal barge coxswain for the president during the visit. The 27-year-old native of Three Rivers, Tx., said he was initially nervous about driving the barge for the president, but was relaxed after reaching the Arizona Memorial.
"When the president left the barge, he told me that I had done an outstanding job under enormous pressure," recalled Curry. The nine-year Navy veteran feels the visit went very smoothly. "I think the gods blessed us with no winds and smooth water."
Bush left Hawaii amid a flurry of flag-waving service members and families who assembled at Hickam Air Force Base to see him off and wish him well on his trip home.
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