COLLEGE STATION, Texas (FOX 26) — Every visitor has a story to tell about what drew them to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, but few, if any, have a story more compelling than Bill Dunham. There is a picture of him and former President George H.W. Bush from 29 years ago on the wall of the museum.
"Right now, I've got so many things just rushing through my mind," said Dunham. "He was a great man and you could feel it in his presence when he came to my bedside." To the bedside of this U.S. Army Ranger as he lay recovering from five gunshot wounds received during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama.
"He pinned my combat jump wings to my pillow and I gave him an American flag," added Dunham. He also said the then-President kept that flag in The White House and former first lady Barbara Bush wrote about the encounter in her book "Reflections." She wrote that he was paralyzed. He wasn't, however, he did lose a limb.
While his reasons for making the trip from Oklahoma are deeply personal, many others felt compelled to come to the library and museum. By 12 p.m. Friday, 500 visitors had signed the condolence book.
"I just checked — more than 700 now," said center director Warren Finch. "So I'm kind of grateful that people are coming out to see the museum."
People in the former President's adopted hometown of Houston had the privilege of witnessing the funeral events in a way that the rest of the U.S. did not. We watched it in a much more intimate way. Others are now getting a turn, including a man who called the President his Commander-in-Chief 29 years ago.
"It makes me proud," said Dunham. "I love my country and I'm just lucky to be here."
Visitors were supposed to be able to visit the gravesite of former President George H.W. Bush on Saturday but that might not happen because of all the rain. Before you make the trip, visit the website bush41.org for more information.