Friday, October 24, 2003

With the battleship USS Missouri in the background, President Bush chatted yesterday with survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, including Richard Husted, left, and, next to him, Sterling Cale. They were aboard the USS Arizona Memorial, one of Bush's first stops during his whirlwind 12-hour visit to Hawaii.

Bush impresses vets
at Pearl Harbor

President of the United States
 Bush 'impressed'
 Some are impromptu guests
 Bush honors vets' sacrifices
 2nd-grader puts Bush on spot
 Politics left behind at tea
 Isle volunteer greets president
 Bush bypasses protesters
 Some brave security for glimpse
 Stop fits Bush travel pattern

Veterans of Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri saluted President Bush yesterday as he, in turn, honored their sacrifices.

Fifty veterans, including Medal of Honor recipients, met Bush and his wife, Laura, aboard "Mighty Mo" yesterday.

"Waiting six hours to see him was worth every minute of it," said Tobias Ricafort Langcaon.

Pargas served on the Missouri as a fire controlman from 1985 to 1988 and is an instructor for the Navy's Aegis Training and Readiness Center. Langcaon served on the Missouri from 1953 to 1955.

It was the president's first visit to the Missouri and the Arizona Memorial.

When Ray Emory, 82, historian for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, met the Bushes yesterday, he said he pulled out a picture he has carried for 12 years.

Emory, who served on the USS Honolulu, said Laura Bush chuckled when he asked, "Do you recognize these people?"

Emory held a photo of him sitting between George and Barbara Bush on the Arizona during the 1991 observances of the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack.

Ten Pearl Harbor survivors were invited to the Arizona to meet the Bushes and have their pictures taken with them.

"He was real congenial," said Dick Husted, who was a seaman first class on the USS Oklahoma, "and she's lovely in person. Both of them are just sharp as a tack."

Husted said he wore the flag of Texas on his lapel because he has a home in San Antonio, as well as here, and Bush "noticed that right off the bat ... so we had comments on that."

But he said the president was rushed. "I think he wanted to get home and watch the ballgame," Husted said.

Robert McCoy, 79, who manned an Army machine gun in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, said he "had a very cordial visit" with the Bushes.

"I know he used to own a baseball team back in Texas, so I asked him if he was going to get back into baseball after he finishes being president," McCoy said. "He said he's not going to buy another team, he's just going to be an observer now."

Herb Weatherwax, 86, who was a 24-year-old private in the 298th Infantry when Pearl Harbor was attacked, said he told Bush he is glad to have him as president.

"Personally, my opinion is President Bush is one of the top presidents."

Weatherwax said he greeted Laura Bush "the Hawaiian way," with a hug, because "I'm a local boy."

Justin Jaech, who served on the Missouri from 1985 to 1987, said each veteran wore a name tag, and Bush "greeted everyone personally," calling them by name. "He was very animated and seemed very pleased to be here."

The Bushes spent about 45 minutes on the Missouri, arriving about 9:45 a.m. after putting a wreath on the Arizona Memorial and dropping anthurium flowers into the water over the sunken battleship.

Retired Vice Adm. Robert Kihune, chairman of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, gave Bush a brief tour, and the president put a wreath by the Missouri's memorial plaque.

Bush spent about half an hour in the captain's cabin with Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Forces commander, the veterans said.

Langcaon said the experience was a "highlight" in his life. "I never thought I would have a chance to meet the president, and today it happened."


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