Former President Bush's life, legacy remembered by Valley veterans

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Former President George H.W. Bush was a pilot in World War II, and as the last President to have served in combat, his death is being mourned by veterans in the Valley.

At American Legion Post 1, there is a photo of Bush when he came by for a visit in the early 1990's. It was a proud day for the Legion and all veterans.

"He was more than just our President. He was a World War II pilot. He was not just shot down. His two crew mates were lost and never recovered them," said veteran David Carrasco. "So, he was a heroic person in addition to being the President. Extremely."

As a navy pilot in the Pacific, Bush logged more than a thousand hours in the air. He landed on aircraft carriers 126 times, and flew in 58 combat missions. At the Arizona State Veteran Home, there is a Veterans Hall of Fame. It's a sacred place, and a place where Bush is remembered fondly.

"He almost died, and I think when people almost die and by luck -- pure luck -- he survived, you are learning something for the rest of your life," said veteran John Blakeman.

The vets said what Bush learned was the value of selfless service, as well as a respect for adversaries, and a willingness to bring even the most antagonistic people together.