True story, via Seamus, about President Bush on his way to "Asia" (read Olympics):
The Value of Service
Commentary by Lt. Col. Mark Murphy
354th Maintenance Group deputy commander
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- I learned a big lesson on service Aug. 4, 2008, when Eielson had the rare honor of hosting President Bush on a refueling stop as he traveled to Asia .
It was an event Eielson will never forget -- a hangar full of Airmen and Soldiers getting to see the Commander in Chief up close, and perhaps even shaking his hand. An incredible amount of effort goes into presidential travel because of all of the logistics, security, protocol, etc ... so it was remarkable to see Air Force One land at Eielson on time at precisely 4:30 p.m.--however, when he left less than two hours later, the President was 15 minutes behind schedule.
That's a big slip for something so tightly choreographed, but very few people know why it happened. Here's why.
On Dec. 10, 2006, our son, Shawn, was a paratrooper deployed on the outskirts of Baghdad . He was supposed to spend the night in camp, but when a fellow soldier became ill Shawn volunteered to take his place on a nighttime patrol--in the convoy's most exposed position as turret gunner in the lead Humvee. He was killed instantly with two other soldiers when an IED ripped through their vehicle.
I was thinking about that as my family and I sat in the audience listening to the President's speech, looking at the turret on the up-armored Humvee the explosive ordnance disposal flight had put at the edge of the stage as a static display.
When the speech was over and the President was working the crowd line, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a White House staff member. She asked me and my wife to come with her, because the President wanted to meet us.
Stunned, we grabbed our two sons that were with us and followed her back into a conference room. It was a shock to go from a crowded, noisy hangar, past all of those security people, to find ourselves suddenly alone in a quiet room.
The only thing we could hear was a cell phone vibrating, and noticed that it was coming from the jacket Senator Stevens left on a chair. We didn't answer.
A short time later, the Secret Service opened the door and President Bush walked in. I thought we might get to shake his hand as he went through. But instead, he walked up to my wife with his arms wide, pulled her in for a hug and a kiss, and said, "I wish I could heal the hole in your heart." He then grabbed me for a hug, as well as each of our sons. Then he turned and said, "Everybody out."
A few seconds later, the four of us were completely alone behind closed doors with the President of the United States and not a Secret Service agent in sight.
He said, "Come on, let's sit down and talk." He pulled up a chair at the side of the room, and we sat down next to him. He looked a little tired from his trip, and he noticed that his shoes were scuffed up from leaning over concrete barriers to shake hands and pose for photos. He slumped down the chair, completely relaxed, smiled, and suddenly was no longer the President - he was just a guy with a job, sitting around talking with us like a family member at a barbeque.
For the next 15 or 20 minutes, he talked with us about our son, Iraq , his family, faith, convictions, and shared his feelings about nearing the end of his presidency. He asked each of our teenaged sons what they wanted to do in life and counseled them to set goals, stick to their convictions, and not worry about being the "cool" guy.
He said that he'd taken a lot of heat during his tenure and was under a lot of pressure to do what's politically expedient, but was proud to say that he never sold his soul. Sometimes he laughed, and at others he teared up. He said that what he'll miss most after leaving office will be his role as Commander in Chief.
One of the somber moments was when he thanked us for the opportunity to meet, because he feels a heavy responsibility knowing that our son died because of a decision he made. He was incredibly humble, full of warmth, and completely without pretense. We were seeing the man his family sees.
We couldn't believe how long he was talking to us, but he seemed to be in no hurry whatsoever. In the end, he thanked us again for the visit and for the opportunity to get off his feet for a few minutes. He then said, "Let's get some pictures." The doors flew open, Secret Service and the White House photographer came in, and suddenly he was the President again. We posed for individual pictures as he gave each of us one of his coins, and then he posed for family pictures. A few more thank yous, a few more hugs, and he was gone.
The remarkable thing about the whole event was that he didn't have to see us at all. If he wanted to do more, he could've just given a quick handshake and said, "Thanks for your sacrifice." But he didn't - he put everything and everyone in his life on hold to meet privately with the family of a Private First Class who gave his life in the service of his country.
What an incredible lesson on service. If the President of the United States is willing to drop everything on his plate to visit with a family, surely the rest of us can do it. No one is above serving another person, and no one is so lofty that he or she can't treat others with dignity and respect.
We often think of service in terms of sacrificing ourselves for someone in a position above us, but how often do we remember that serving someone below us can be much more important? If you're in a leadership capacity, take a good look at how you're treating your people, and remember that your role involves serving the people you rely on every day.
More about Shawn Murphy after the Jump.
From the Daily Press - 12/15/06:
York High graduate killed in Iraq
Shawn M. Murphy, 24, died when a roadside bomb exploded near a Humvee he was riding in.
BY STEPHANIE HEINATZ
December 15, 2006
As a child, Shawn M. Murphy dreamed of following in the footsteps of his Air Force father.
But he would go in the Army, he'd say, because he wanted to be part of their fight. To be on the front line.
As a teenager, putting his career goals on hold to spend two years in Uganda and Kenya doing Mormon missionary work, he learned humility. He saw firsthand that "the only difference between pestilence and a blessing was perspective," said his father, Lt. Col. Mark Murphy, in recalling a story his son once told him of an infestation of flying termites that locals fried up to eat.
And as an Army private first class serving in Baghdad, he came to feel that his purpose in Iraq was not just to serve his country. He was fighting for people to worship how they chose just as he had throughout his life, Mark Murphy said.
Shawn Murphy died in that fight Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee in Baghdad.
The 24-year-old, who graduated from York High School in 2001 and lived in York County for two years while his father was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, was on his first deployment to the war-torn country.
He left in October with the Alaska-based 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
Shawn, the oldest of six children, is survived by a family he always put first, a younger sister said, and proud parents, who are now stationed in Alaska.
While they are still working out Shawn's funeral arrangements, his father said, it's likely he'll be buried in Montana, the Murphys' home of record.
"He was really loved," said Malia Bond, Shawn's 22-year-old sister, during a phone interview from her home in Utah.
"I'm so grateful that he sacrificed himself for all of us here so that we can have what we have and that I knew someone that was so amazing and willing to do that."
And she's grateful for her memories, she said.
Her brother was one of the smartest men she'd known.
"He didn't use those powers for good."
He used them to lovingly tease a baby sister, she said with a smile in her voice.
On MySpace.com, a popular Web site that allows people to create their own Internet profiles and blogs, Murphy was known as "crazyhotguy," a name that was typical of the humor she loved in her brother, Bond said.
In his online biography there, he wrote that he'd kissed someone in the rain, had often gone out of his way to befriend people and had, perhaps, been in love.
He loved to laugh, writing that the last time he remembered crying was after laughing so hard tears came out.
Pictures of Murphy posted on MySpace showed a skinny teenager in Africa, sporting a button-up shirt and tie, and of a happy man, beefy and muscular from bodybuilding. Some were of him in uniform, posing for the camera with a group of smiling comrades.
And one was of, according to the caption, Shawn and his last girlfriend. In that shot, he was kissing a giraffe.
While in Iraq, he wasn't able to call home, family members said, so he often used MySpace and e-mail to let his family know he was OK.
Through those final writings, his father said, Shawn showed that "he was driven. He was enthusiastic."
And because of that, and "because of our faith, we know where he is now," Mark Murphy said Thursday. "We have every confidence that he's in a good place, and we know that Shawn died doing what he loved.
"When he left this world, he left with no regrets and with a feeling he had done what he needed to accomplish in this life."
Murphy was the second area serviceman killed in Iraq this month. Marine Cpl. Joshua Sticklen, 24, died Dec. 3 in a helicopter crash in the al-Anbar province.
Sticklen, a 24-year-old from Virginia Beach, was stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.
He was buried this week following a memorial service at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek.
Sticklen was one of four Marines killed when a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed.
Staff researcher Tracy Sorensen contributed to this report.