Veteran bids farewell to President Bush
By Dana Delgado
As the distant whistle sounded the impending approach of Funeral Train 4141 carrying the body of President George H.W. Bush, hundreds of well-wishers readied with their signs, phones, and flags as the tracks began to vibrate and the lights of the train beamed from around the bend.
Among those anxiously waiting was Joe Warren of Liberty Hill.
Dressed in black and proudly wearing his cap designating his naval service, Warren, the Director of Maintenance and Facilities for the Liberty Hill Independent School District, came to attention and saluted as the locomotive, painted to look like Air Force One, slowly rumbled past him.
Inside the train procession, the flag-draped casket was visible as well as the soldiers guarding it. Members of the Bush family accompanying the President’s body, waved from the funeral procession. The state funeral train tradition, first started by President Lincoln, was the first in 49 years.
“I was extremely emotional,” said Warren, who was accompanied on the Dec. 6 trip to College Station by Bonnie Marchand, Administrative Assistant at Liberty Hill High School. “There was a great outpouring of support. I felt a great sense of pride and wanted to pay my tribute.”
Like many, Warren had placed some coins on the tracks to retrieve as souvenirs as the 420,000-pound locomotive passed by. So taken by the ceremonious funeral procession, he almost forgot to collect them until others reminded him of his coins.
“I was all choked up,” he said. “It was all so powerful.”
The train was nearing the end of a two and one-half hour journey from Houston to College Station, the culmination of a week of ceremonies in Washington and Texas. The President was laid to rest on the grounds of the Presidential Library & Museum at Texas A&M University, next to his late wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin, who passed away in 1953 at the age of three.
Warren said he played “hooky” from work to make the trip and realized that everyone would find him out when his story was published, but emphasized that it was all worth it. Since the passing of the President, Warren said he had been following the news closely.
“I just knew I had to go to College Station,” he said. “It was a privilege.”
He said he was drawn to not only the record and accomplishments of President Bush, but his character.
“His resume is unparalleled,” he said. “Most people don’t realize what a good man, a good human being he was. I really didn’t know much about him until his son George W. Bush became president and the two started to relate to each other as presidents.”
To cap the event and Warren’s trip, the 41st President was honored with the largest-ever 21 aircraft missing man formation as part of his funeral services.
“The police presence increased as we waited for the flyover,” Warren said. “The whole ground shook as the Hornets and Super Hornets soared overhead. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was a different type of emotional feeling – one of gratitude.”
Warren, a military veteran who retired from the U.S. Navy with service as a naval diver in special operations, has a family history of military service. His uncles served in the Navy and Army Air Corp and reportedly one of his uncles was captured by the legendary German General Erwin Rommel, known as the “Desert Fox.” Two of Warren’s sons, Jared and Jordon, also have military backgrounds.