Shortly before President George H.W. Bush’s state funeral, Douglas County Human Resources Director and Army veteran Michael Kurtz offered a personal tribute to his former commander in chief.
Kurtz delivered his remarks at the Douglas County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting Wednesday morning at the Douglas County Courthouse.
Kurtz was part of a logistical headquarters unit, the 593rd Area Support Group, that served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
Four days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the 82nd Airborne was deployed “to draw a line in the sand, as the president so eloquently stated in his speech to Saddam Hussein,” Kurtz said. “Within days after, my unit was put on alert and within a week I was loading up into the belly of a C-5 military cargo plane on a flight to Saudi Arabia.”
Kurtz served as a military photojournalist. He said he slept easy at night, despite being in a war zone. He had confidence in his chain of command, including President Bush, who was a combat Navy bomber pilot in World War II.
“I had a special affinity for the president’s military background, as my grandfather and two great uncles were also World War II pilots,” he said.
Kurtz had the chance to see Bush speak to the troops once, while stationed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. He felt the president appreciated their work and sacrifice.
“As a combat veteran, President Bush understood sacrifice and the human cost of war, and as commander in chief he went to great lengths to look after the livelihood of every soldier, including mine, that served in his chain of command,” Kurtz said.
Bush’s leadership led to victory with minimal casualties, and Kurtz returned safely home with a “renewed appreciation for all of the things that make our country the greatest nation in the world.”
There have been presidents since, but there’s only one Kurtz has called commander in chief.
“Thank you President George Herbert Walker Bush for your tremendous service to our country, the honor and dignity that you brought to the office of the presidency, and for being a commander in chief that was, as we say in the Army, a soldier’s soldier. However, being that you were a naval officer, it wouldn’t be appropriate to end with an Army sentiment. So as they say in the Navy, fair winds and following seas, Mr. President, we have the watch.”
Navy veteran Jim Little, the former president of the Douglas County Veterans Forum, also served under Bush. Little was a project officer of the deployment of the ground launch cruise missile in Europe during Bush’s tenure, which he said has been signaled as one of the factors that caused the downfall of the communist Soviet Union. Little said the date of that downfall coincided with his birthday in 1991. It was the best birthday present ever, he said.
He treasured Bush as a member of the greatest generation.
“It’s a sad occasion, but is was a pleasure for me to see the flag of the United States Navy follow his casket. He was a brother Naval officer. May he rest in peace,” Little said.