Legion of Honor Medal Presentation, image credited to Laura McKenzie of The Eagle
Former president George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush were posthumously honored Thursday with medals from the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation.
In addition to the Bushes, medals were also given to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and two Texas police officers who confronted a school shooter in 2018.
The small theater of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library was filled with dozens who had traveled from across the state and beyond to celebrate the five, whose heroic or otherwise charitable actions were deemed outstanding by the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, which was created by President Harry S Truman in the 1950s. The foundation honors the lives of four military chaplains of varying religious backgrounds who, during World War II, sacrificed their lives together for the wellbeing of their fellow servicemen following a submarine attack in the Atlantic Ocean. Each year, the foundation presents awards to those who embody the spirit of these chaplains. Additionally, the foundation presents the Charles W. David Jr. Lifesaving Medallion named in honor of a Coast Guardsman who sacrificed his life during the sub attack.
The former president and first lady were honored with Gold Medallions, the highest and most prestigious award given by the Memorial Foundation. The couple was recognized not only for the president’s valor in combat during his military service, but also for his achievements in international relations as president. Barbara Bush was honored for her charity work and raising and awarding hundreds of millions of dollars to promote family literacy.
Last year’s Gold Medallion recipient, Houston’s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, addressed the crowd Thursday and retold the story of President Bush’s combat mission overseas in which the young pilot was shot down over a Japanese island, losing two of his colleagues and enduring a head injury.
McIngvale stated that George H.W. Bush would wake up each morning every year following that incident and ask himself, “Why me?” as a way to remind himself how lucky and blessed he was to still be alive, and to be given a chance to succeed and serve others.
“To me that is the legacy of president and Mrs. Bush, the most giving people I have ever met, and the most kind and caring people I have ever met,” he said.
The Bushes’ grandson, George P. Bush, accepted the encased gold medals on his grandparents’ behalf. He, too, was presented with his own award while on stage, the Legion of Honor’s Bronze Medallion. According to the Memorial Foundation, he was selected to receive this honor due to his actions as land commissioner, including protecting private property rights, overseeing land and investments, and assisting 60,000 victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“I am personally deeply honored to be here with you this afternoon to accept this amazing award on [my grandparents’] behalf and in their name, because I know the story of the Four Chaplains needs to be carried on in this library… I accept [these medallions] on behalf of my grandparents and I accept the [bronze] medallion absolutely on behalf of the land office. They deserve all the credit in response to what we did for Hurricane Harvey building 60,000 homes for Texans.”
The Charles W. David Jr. Lifesaving Medallions were presented to police officers with Santa Fe ISD: Officer John Barnes and Assistant Chief Gary Forward. These two officers were on scene at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018, when a teen student shot and killed 10 people inside the Texas school.
“Chief Forward’s life would change forever,” said Memorial Foundation board member Charles Yeman Jr. “He and his partner, Officer John Barnes, in complete disregard for their own personal safety, ran towards the threat… Officer Barnes sustained a life-threatening gunshot wound which severed his artery. Chief Forward’s action not only saved the lives of teachers and students, but his bravery was also demonstrated when, by applying a tourniquet to Barnes’ arm, he undoubtedly saved the life of his friend. Once moving Barnes out of harm’s way, Chief Forward confronted the gunman, exchanging gunfire with him.”
Yeman compared the officers’ bravery to that exhibited by the foundation’s four chaplains on the night of battle in the Atlantic Ocean.
“This is very humbling,” Forward said after the ceremony. “It’s a huge honor for sure. We appreciate all the support from people that we’ve received. There were a lot of people there that day who did a lot of great work, and it feels kind of funny being singled out.”