By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Amadi, Naval District Washington Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Guardsmen assigned to the United States Ceremonial Guard (USNCG) participated in the state funeral ceremony for former President George H.W. Bush Dec. 5 and his final funeral Dec. 7.
Quartermaster 3rd Class Cristina Lewis carried the presidential flag during Bush’s state funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kenneth Knox, resident of Adrian, Michigan, served as the guard of honor during President Bush’s final funeral at St. Martins Episcopal Church in Houston.
“It was surreal,” said Knox. “You do all the training for something like this, but once you’re actually in the thick of things, it’s pretty mind boggling.”
After news of President Bush’s passing broke late Friday night, a message went out to USNCG personnel and within 14 hours, the Sailors were on their way to participate in his funeral.
“The text came through a little after midnight for me and I come straight to the Ceremonial Guard building and started contacting everyone else. My job was to make sure everybody else’s sea bag was packed and we were organized. We conducted the sea bag inspections, departed our command at 9:00 AM, we got to Andrews Air Force Base at 10:30 AM and we were in the air and ready to support the mission by about 3:00 PM,” said Knox.
As the guard of honor, Knox was in charge of a group of service members who would stand watch over President Bush’s casket.
“You do all the training for something like that, then you’re called into action and everything is moving 100 mph. Then you’re actually in there and it’s surreal. I felt honored to be standing there, coming from a small town in Michigan. I never saw myself doing anything like that,” said Knox.
Lewis not only had the honor of not only carrying the presidential flag during his state funeral, but being the first female Sailor carry the flag during a ceremony.
“I was super nervous,” said Lewis. The hearse arrives and I marched around the left side of the hearse and I presented the flag. The casket bearers move so they’re going to head into the cathedral and I’m right behind them. I go up the stairs and now we’re inside the cathedral. They forward march and we do a slow march all the way up the aisle. By the time we reach the front I’ve got George W. Bush on my right side and Donald Trump on my left side.”
Lewis, 25, has only been in the Navy for a year and a half and says she was humbled by the opportunity.
“It was really awesome. This time last year, I had just reported to the ceremonial guard and I had no idea I would be part of something like this. Having George W. Bush on my left side was surreal because he was president when I was the first grade.”
“I never thought I would be part of something like that. It was really humbling and a once in a lifetime opportunity. It felt surreal to see all those important people and be able to showcase what we do. It was really nice to read all the comments online about how we performed and it’s good to know that this means something to so many people,” said Lewis.