MOUNT PLEASANT (WJRT) (12/05/18) - Two Mid-Michigan veterans made the trip of a lifetime to pay respects to their former commander in chief.
Image Source: US Navy / Jason Winn / MGN
The trip began to shape seven months ago with the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush and was completed this week as former President George H.W. Bush lied in state in the U.S. Capitol.
"We were watching the coverage and I made the statement to my boys, we were going to go to all three presidents' funerals that I deployed under -- the first being President Bush, second being his son George W. Bush and the third being President Obama," said veteran Patrick Birgy.
He was reminded of that promise last week, when the news of former President Bush's death began to spread.
"My youngest son has a memory like a hawk and he did not forget that, and so I had no choice at that point," Birgy said.
So on Saturday, Birgy enlisted the help of his friend and fellow veteran Tom Creguer to make the 10-hour trip from Mount Pleasant to Washington, D.C., to pay their respects to the 41st president.
"He was someone I always respected. I thought he was a great President, a great person," Birgy said. "I wanted to do it to pay homage to such a great person."
The veterans, along with their five boys age 7 and older, drove straight to the nation's capital. They got to see Bush's casket inside the U.S. Capitol Building.
"There were five military guards from each branch of service guarding the casket and draped in a flag," Birgy said.
Creguer was moved by the scene inside the Capitol.
"When we stood there in total silence, it's hard enough for a small kid, our kids. But then to watch adults that are moved to tears and) to watch the service men that Pat talked about stand guard there, with no flinching, no hesitation or reservation of duty," he said. "To see what duty and service and sacrifice actually look like to me was priceless."
The group also visited Arlington National Cemetery during their whirlwind trip of a lifetime. It presented a history lesson Creguer said their boys could never receive in a classroom.
"When you all look at the tombstones, you can't tell if the person's white, black, Hispanic. All you know they lived and they died and they served their country," he said. "And to me God bless them. I hope they never die in combat, but if they serve our country and they leave this world, they left it a better place. Then I think we did a pretty good job as dads and this might be a starting point for them."