AP Interview: George W. Bush Still Supports Troops

DALLAS (AP) – George W. Bush says that after eight years in the White House, he’s happy to be back home in Texas and out of the spotlight.

But the former commander-in-chief tells The Associated Press there’s one aspect of his presidency he still misses: interaction with U.S. troops. And Bush, who sent them to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, says that despite his desire to remain largely out of the public eye, he wants to make sure veterans and military members know they still have his support.

“I was a little concerned that our veterans don’t think that I still respect them and care for them a lot,” Bush told the AP. He added later, “There’s nothing as courageous in my judgment as someone who had a leg blown off in combat overcoming the difficulties.”

Bush is hosting next week’s Warrior Open golf tournament in suburban Dallas, an event featuring members of the U.S. Armed Forces wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, including those who lost limbs and suffered brain injuries. Bush joined more than a dozen wounded military members in the Warrior 100 — a 62-mile mountain bike ride he hosted in West Texas last spring.

These public appearances are the exception to the lifestyle Bush has led in his post-presidency.

After leaving office two years ago, Bush and former first lady Laura Bush bought a house in Dallas and started work on the George W. Bush Presidential Center, slated to open in 2013. He has attended select events relating to the center, as well as a ceremony with President Barack Obama marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But he has largely remained out of the public eye.

Bush said he doesn’t want veterans to mistake his private nature with a lack of appreciation for what they’ve done on the battlefield.

“They hadn’t seen me and they hadn’t seen me with the troops,” he said. “So therefore I am using mountain biking and golf to stay connected with the military, people who served during my presidency.”

Military members and veterans groups have generally held Bush in high regard, despite the nationwide protests and international controversy that grew more fervent as the American death toll grew in Afghanistan and Iraq under his command.

More than 1,680 military members have died in Afghanistan since the U.S. began bombing there in October 2001, while more than 4,470 military members have died in Iraq since the war began there in March 2003. Another 46,000 have been wounded in both campaigns.

“What I’m concerned about is that Americans forget the sacrifice,” Bush said. “I don’t think they are right now, but one of my objectives is to make sure they never do.”

Bush, who since leaving office also has made appearances at events for organizations that benefit troops, said he gets inspiration from meeting members of the military who have overcome serious injuries. He said there’s not much he misses about the presidency, but added he does miss being commander-in-chief because he has “great respect for those men and women who wear the uniform.”

Brian “Ski” Donarski, 43, is among the veterans Bush has invited to the two-day golf tournament that starts Monday. The Army first lieutenant was seriously wounded when a mine blew up in Iraq in 2006 and spent 13 months rehabilitating from a traumatic brain injury, a fracture in his neck, bulged disks in his back and undergoing shoulder surgery.

Though Bush has spent most of the past couple of years out of the limelight, Donarski never doubted the former president’s commitment to the troops.

“I know he didn’t forget us,” he said.

David Hartley, police chief of the small southeast Texas town of Hempstead, also supports Bush, even after losing his 25-year-old son, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Lee Hartley, in 2008 in Iraq. For the last two years, the chief has organized the Watermelon Run for the Fallen in Hempstead to raise money for organizations that help veterans and their families. Hartley, whose last run drew about 3,500 people, also said he’s never doubted the Republican president’s commitment to the troops.

“The man literally cares for our troops and I have the upmost respect for him,” Hartley said. “Everything he does, he does from his heart.”

Besides interacting with veterans and service members, Bush plans to stay involved in public policy through his already-active institute, which focuses on education reform, global health, human freedom and economic growth.

But, he makes clear, “I don’t miss the fame.” He said he and Laura are content with their life back in Texas, where he served as governor for six years before winning the presidency.

“We’ve got a lot of friends down here,” Bush said. “It’s been fun to reconnect with them.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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  • larry smith

    …and what if they can’t “overcome the difficulties?”

    Bush was Cheney’s puppet and has blood on his hands. Did I mention that he was AWOL from the Houston Flying Club during wartime? He couldn’t even fulfill his commitment of protecting Houston from VietCong aerial attack.

    • darrell

      larry, your a sad person with a sad narrow view that is twisted beyond reality. your a sad person because you think your right. your a sad person because you probably cant be helped. just sad.

  • altha

    darrell you’re a sad person for trying to protect George Bush Jr. he does have blood on his hands. Every time a fallen troop come home for burial or come home without an arm or leg Bush Jr. should be there to greet them.

    • DDT

      Excuse me, but isn’t Barack Obama the HNIC who should be bringing them home? They’re still over there fighting, aren’t they, genius?

    • darrell

      give it a rest. he has no more blood on his hands than does obama for the illegal war he started or the fact that he has perpetuated the war you speak of inspite of his promises. i dont have to defend bush, he is a far greater and more accomplished president than the one in office now will ever be.

  • Marty

    This guy started and illegal and meaningless war. We should NEVER have invaded Iraq. Not to mention how he violated the Geneva Conventions with both Gitmo and Abu Gharib. The sooner we get out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, the better.

    And not to mention that under his watch, the Second Great Depression unfolded under his watch…

  • NiteNurse

    George W. should take most of that money he raised to build his stupid library and give it to the wounded veterans of the wars he helped start.

  • Darryl Britt

    We should NEVER have invaded Iraq! Listen Marty, I am assuming you have a brain in your head, (not to mention Larry and Altha) and the end of the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein signed an agreement to stay in power stipulating that UN inspectors had the right to search ANYWHERE for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons. HUSSEIN GAVE THE INSPECTORS THE RIGHT TO GO ANYWHERE TO LOOK FOR THESE BANNED WEAPONS! Hussein began kicking them out during the Clinton (Our at the time, Coward-in-Cheif) Presidency. Clinton did NOTHING!!! With Bush in office, he got tired of jacking around with Hussein and his antics (Denying inspectors full access to where they wanted to go and bragging about having NBC weapons) and TOOK HIM OUT! Would you rather have him back? Maybe you want bin Laden back as well! Your hero, Obama, said he would have us out of Iraq, Afgahnistan, and Gitmo within a year of taking office. Why are we still there? Because once he became president, he realized BUSH WAS RIGHT!!!. You three need to stop listening to Michael Moore and grow up.

  • Darryl Britt

    As far the Second Great Depression, that can be laid squrely on the Democrats who controlled Congress during the Bush Administration. THEY were the ones who spent us into oblivion by over riding Bush’s vetos. And they are now the same ones that have TRIPLED our spending with Obama’s approval. Grow up guys.

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  • NiteNurse

    The second Great Depression is the responsibility of all of our citizens. We bought things on credit that we weren’t for sure we would be able to pay back. We bought houses way too expensive tor our incomes on balloon mortgages. Then wall street invested on these mortgages hoping they would fail. We rarely saved our money. We spoiled our children with expensive presents never teaching them the value of a dollar. Now we are being forced to understand what happens when we are greedy and wasteful. EVERYONE IS TO BLAME!

  • VetAndBorn2It

    Talk about disconnected if this clown wants to support troops he will not be kept off any military base nor VA Hospital or Clinic or graveyard. Yet he thinks a golf tournament or bike rided is showing support? What about those not injured, dead or those who could care less about sports?
    It is really nice he has lived a private life after failing big time once again in life (so called military service, business and now presidency).
    One thing is true, I do really think he cares for those who have served this Nation, dead/injured or alive. Yet he lacks knowing what is the best way to prove it by going to a militay base, hospital or clinic. or graveyard.
    As for blood on the hands yes he and Congress has that, any military person does not because they are bound to follow the orders that come from the President (direct war) or Congress (undeclared war). Having been in/around the military for about half my lifetime I knew Iraq did not have WMD and although he was a bully he did keep his people in line. Nicely we prevented his stepping on neighbors toes yet we had no legal ground for entering Iraq this last round. When he was killing Kurds or when an actual genocide is happening is the only time you can legally claim to have a right to stop it while lives can still be saved, not 10-20 years later used as an excuse for something you allowed to happen anyway. No Bush was not President then, but I do believe he had a voice then and could have led the charge to get America to do something about it back then, not to mention a genocide was happening elsewhere during his Presidency in which he only slapped wrists.

    • darrell

      VET, i would be interested in your opinion of the current president on the same topics you slam bush on. such as blood on his hands, WMD’s, illegal wars and bully leaders of other nations.

  • VetAndBorn2It

    Really haven’t given it much thought.
    As for blood on his hands he doesn’t have any so far and he hasn’t started any illegal wars. I suspect Iraq will fall from our puppet government we sit up because the majority never voted on the matter and the 3 tribes where never happy campers. Afghan we did have to go into to try and get OBL & gang, yet we do not need to stay just to fight the any other rebels who just want their homeland.
    As for WMD I have nothing against anyone who has a foe who has them seeking to get the same weapon. It is no different from how we personally arm ourselves (coke bottles to knives to guns) keeping up with what works with perps. Yes WMD do more damage (as did each step up in personal defense), yet few of them lack knowing they can’t use one unjustified and expect the world to step back and do nothing. Cold wars work on a small scales and they will end up like the rest of us with a bunch of deadly out-dated toxic mess there is no safe way to get rid of.
    So on the same subject line I can’t slam him, except for still blindly backing Israel when they are clearly in the wrong which is a majority of the root behind what led to 9/11 happening.
    On other topics I do not see eye to eye with him and just like Bush he is well aware of it via contacting him.

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