06/15/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/15/2019 16:46
Plans for most of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush's 17 grandchildren to skydive Saturday at Texas A&M University were cancelled due to high winds, but the celebration still offered a rare opportunity for them to reunite at a place their grandparents held dear.
The parachuting event capped a week of celebrations that recognized what would have been President Bush's 95th birthday on June 12 and the First Lady's 94th birthday on June 8, but also was a continuation of a later-in-life tradition started by the family patriarch. The 41st president parachuted onto the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Center at ages 80, 85 and 90.
It was the largest gathering of Bush family members at the center since President Bush was laid to rest Dec. 6, 2018 alongside Barbara Bush and their daughter Robin, according to a George and Barbara Bush Foundation announcement.
Pierce Bush, son of George H.W. Bush's son Neil Bush, said reuniting at Texas A&M would have made his grandparents proud.
'It's really special,' said Pierce Bush, one of the 12 grandchildren who was set to jump. 'My grandparents deeply loved this community, this school, the traditions that came with it - it's why they chose to have this as their final resting place.'
Pierce Bush said his cousins and their spouses traveled from Washington, D.C., north Texas, Houston and Los Angeles to convene in Aggieland, which has become a gathering hub of sorts for the Bush family.
'One of my grandmother's passing wishes was that our families stay together. We're very tight, we always have been. There's 17 grandkids, and I would say we're closer that a typical family of that size, but it's because our grandparents were the glue, so I think they'd be really proud to see we've stayed together even after they've gone.'
The group of would-be skydivers visited their grandparents' gravesite in the morning to take part in a wreath laying ceremony. Members of the group also included eldest grandchild and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The All Veterans Group, a veteran parachute demonstration team led by Mike Elliott, a retired member of the U.S. Army's elite Golden Knights parachute team, was ready to assist the grandchildren as they parachuted onto Bush Center grounds.
Elliott, who tandem jumped with Bush 41 three times at ages 80, 85 and 90, said the grandchildren were eager to skydive in memory of their grandfather.
'When we lost Mrs. Bush and our 41st president, I said 'I still have to continue this legacy,'' he said. 'Before I knew it, all of his grandkids said 'we want to be a part of that. We want to jump to remember our grandfather, his dream and what he loved to do.''
Elliott added that he feels like a small part of the family being able to continue a Bush tradition.
'It touches my heart and my soul that I'm able to be a part of this legacy and watch the grandkids go up and plunge to the earth and do something their grandfather loved to do,' Elliott said. 'Parachuting saved his life during World War II and we continue to live that legacy and dream.'