Plus: An encore for our Bush Thank-A-Thon
If you have seen the History Channel's special program on Air Force One, you may also be interested in the National Geographic program on the same topic which begins airing this Sunday.
The Air Force One Family says goodbye:
Troops Bid Bush Farewell at Andrews Air Force Base
by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
1/20/2009 - ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- The U.S. military bid farewell today to the outgoing commander in chief during a stirring and emotional departure ceremony in which he called leading men and women in uniform the highlight of his presidency.
A joint service honor guard, military band and about 4,000 cheering, flag-waving fans greeted former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush as they arrived here from what's been called "the ultimate change of command ceremony."
The crowd roared as the former president and vice president made their dramatic entrance into the hangar. The rousing sounds of the "Air Force One" movie theme rung out as the huge hangar slowly opened, revealing the huge blue-and-white presidential aircraft glistening in the sunlight.
Bush said he'll leave the presidency with his "head held high," confident that he took the right course in difficult times. Historians will sort out his time in office, he said, expressing belief that they'll note "we did not shirk our duty, we did not shy away" from difficult decisions and that "we served with conviction."
Cheney praised Bush for taking on "the big jobs that needed doing" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks launched some of the greatest challenges to ever confront the United States. "George W. Bush protected America," he said. "History remembers such leaders and marks them well."
Bush shook hands with many in the crowd, then turned toward the VC-25 aircraft that would take him home to Texas. The flight was designated Special Air Mission 28000 rather than Air Force One, which belongs only to the airplane carrying the sitting president.
On the tarmac, Air Force Brig. Gen. Maggie Woodward, the 89th Airlift Wing commander, escorted the Bushes to a red carpet stretching to the aircraft. A 42-piece joint honor guard flanked both sides of the carpet.
At the end of the carpet, Air Force Col. Steven Shepro, commander of the 316th Wing, and Col. Eric Snadecki, his vice commander, said their final goodbyes before Bush climbed the steps to the plane.
Shepro said he felt honored for him and his airmen to bid a personal goodbye to the departing former president. "It's like saying goodbye to an old friend," he said. He credited his elite team that regularly serves the president -- with the Air Force's only flightline protocol office and a second-to-none security detachment, among them -- with bringing honor to the Air Force.
"We're all here to honor our former honor in chief as he departs," said Army Sgt. Tyler Murray, one of six members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard" to serve in the joint service honor guard. "President Bush has looked out for his troops, and we're here to honor him."
"I've been involved in a lot of high-priority missions," said Army Pfc. Jared Robison, a fellow "Old Guard" soldier. "But this one is the highest on my list, personally."
Finally, a video tribute to our 43rd President of the United States: