When I called Bridget this morning I told her that I had met someone that I had never met before. She asked who, my reply--George W. Bush. Obviously she was surprised. In the military they don't actually tell you who is showing up; it's a VIP, that's all you know. So they told us when to show up where and what to be wearing. Unfortunately for us it was 3 AM on the other side of camp. Afghanistan is not like Iraq; winter is cold here. No snow yet, but it's very cold that early in the morning. So dutifully, we went and waited. It was quite a long wait, but you're used to that in the Army.
They had some military vehicles set up for a backdrop and some sandbags next to the podium; I guess to make it look more "in harm's way". It all looked nice. We cheered thunderously when he finally showed up. For as many times as I've heard "Hail to the Chief" it's quite surreal when it's for the actual President. There were probably only about 300 or so of us in the room when he arrived. He thanked us, wished us well, passed on regards from Laura, and thanked us again. I was less than 10 feet away from him as he spoke. It's also surreal to physically see the face of someone that you recognize so very well. I think it's a bit different for those of us in the military because to us he's not just the President, but our Commander in Chief. It's a whole different level of respect and admiration.
One interesting thing he asked us to do was to call our spouses and families and to thank them from him for their sacrifice in supporting us as we leave them to defend this nation. There was not the slightest hint of patronizing or disingenuousness. We all felt he was truly and deeply concerned for us and our families. He concluded his remarks and began shaking hands with everyone that was within reach. He didn't seem in any hurry to leave and it was obvious that he tried very hard to shake as many hands as he could. He was even giving some of our guys hugs. Which to me seemed a bit unusual, but I think that's just the kind of person he is. I think he understands because he served as well.
As we watched him leave everyone cheered, even the foreign soldiers that were standing next to us. As he left, I felt gratitude for having served under someone as honorable as him, and I wondered when or if America will see another President as dedicated and humble as he was. It was something I won't forget and a fitting way to conclude my time here in Afghanistan.