George P. Bush - Gampy inspired me to serve
George P Bush, son of Jeb Bush wrote this tribute to his grandfather upon the former President receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Earlier this year, I returned to Texas from Afghanistan, where I was deployed as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. During my time in Afghanistan, I began to understand the crippling realities of Afghan poverty; the lack of participation at all levels; the unwillingness of leaders to step up and run for the critical municipal offices that form the foundation of a functioning democracy; and the absence of human infrastructure that might let even those Afghans who want to give back to their country do so without fear of recrimination.
* Bush: The former president, and 14 other people, received the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.
By Dave Einsel, for USA TODAY
Bush: The former president, and 14 other people, received the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.
How does a 34-year-old professional living a comfortable life with his wife in Texas wind up in a combat zone? I can tell you in four simple words: George Herbert Walker Bush, my grandfather, or "Gampy" as he is known in our large, loving and competitive family.
Volunteerism and public service are at the core of what my grandparents' quintessentially American lives have taught me. It's what my grandfather meant when he called for "a thousand points of light" in his inaugural address 22 years ago. It's what President Obama meant on Tuesday when he awarded Gampy the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor our nation knows.
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For me, the moment when I realized it was my turn to do my part for our country came on Oct. 7, 2006. That day, I witnessed my grandfather become the first living president in U.S history to participate in the christening of a warship named for him: the USS George H.W. Bush.
Gampy's remarks that day — a rare, personal window into his heroic service in World War II — affected me deeply. He talked about how he couldn't imagine leaving my grandmother at such an early stage in their courtship and about how scared he was at the prospect of flying bombers against a powerful enemy. But he felt a patriotic calling that compelled him to sign up and ship out to the Pacific with many others of his generation. Ultimately, he survived being shot down over Chichi Jima in 1944. In a long life of adventure and achievement, it was his Navy service that defined my grandfather most.
Proud as I was of Gampy that day, I left the ceremony with a feeling of emptiness. While service had been a part of my life from a young age, I knew then that I needed to do more. Soon afterward, I phoned my grandfather to let him know that I intended to follow in his footsteps and join the Navy. Several months later, I began my naval training.
But, in truth, my training had begun long before. When I was 12, I went to Washington, D.C., to spend the summer with my grandparents in the White House, and one of the first things my grandmother did was to take me to volunteer at a soup kitchen in downtown Washington. Like any 12-year-old, I was reluctant at first, thinking that playing sports and hanging out with my friends were more important than volunteering. It was only later, when my passion for baseball combined with my family's call to public service, that I understood the profound rewards of giving back.
In high school, I began volunteering in Miami's Little Havana, teaching kids to play baseball as a way to keep them out of trouble. As a college student at Rice University in Houston, I continued to combine baseball and mentoring in a Saturday morning program administered by my church. We worked with at-risk kids in the greater Houston area, teaching them the basics of the sport as well as the critical skills they would need in life.
Next month in Washington, hundreds of friends and supporters will honor Gampy again at an all-star, bipartisan tribute convened by the Points of Light Institute for his role in advancing service to community and country. I feel certain that my generation, if challenged effectively and led well, can display the same commitment to raising our hands and serving our country.
Just last weekend, I sat down with my grandfather and asked him what receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom means to him. He was modest, as always, but said, "It's a big honor, and the biggest an old guy like me could ask for." Mostly, he said he hopes that the commemorations will serve to highlight the power of volunteer service in overcoming the challenges our country faces in the 21st century.
I told him, "Count me in."
George P. Bush is the son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush and grandson of former president George H.W. Bush.