View Full Version : Bush’s life ‘a monument to courage, faith & sacrifice’

11-15-05, 03:13 PM
Bush’s life ‘a monument to courage, faith & sacrifice’
By Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin - Daily World Writer
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 11:08 AM PST

“It’s far more difficult to live with the Medal of Honor than to earn it, and no one lived with it better than Bob Bush.”

The speaker was a retired Army major general who also holds the nation’s highest award for valor.

Patrick H. Brady was among the hundreds who gathered Monday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lacey to pay their last respects to the greatest hero in Twin Harbors history — Robert E. Bush.

Talking after a poignant graveside service later Monday at Menlo, Brady said he was in Germany with his daughter and visiting the troops when he learned of Bush’s death. “I wouldn’t not have been here,” he said. “I came half-way around the world to be with him.”

Brady said Bush “defined friendship. There’s no way that anyone could have a better friend.”

Fond memories

Tom Brown, longtime attorney for Bush and his Bayview building supply partner, Victor Druzianich, eulogized his friend in a warm and witty remembrance at the funeral.

“He knew death was coming, but he accepted it with courage and faith,” Brown said, recalling that Bush quipped that he was heading “to the big lumber yard in the sky.”

Bush had lived his life “way beyond the one great defining moment … on Okinawa as an 18-year-old.”

Rarely did Bush talk about that day of “heroism in its purest form” — May 2, 1945 — but when he did, “that good eye would blaze,” recalling the horror of the battlefield. The Medal of Honor Citation is replete with the “stark and chilling language of courage under harrowing conditions,” Brown said.

President Harry S. Truman presented Bush with the medal for braving enemy fire to give medical assistance to injured members of his platoon. He also single-handedly killed six of the enemy, despite his own serious wounds, including the loss of his right eye.

Gen. Brady had said earlier that “Bob Bush was President Truman’s favorite hero, and all of us know why.”

Bush was ever the optimist, Brown said, “looking for good, looking to help anyone he could. He resolved to be a hero for the rest of his life!”

When a cell phone warbled in the middle of his remembrance, Brown quipped, “Bob is probably calling in. Tell him I’m not billing him” for this.

No ladder to climb

The Rev. Michael Ryan, a priest who had known Bush for years, said the Valley High School graduate “represented the values of integrity, honesty and friendship. … He never forgot his friends.”

Bush had “no need to climb the ladder … It was not about ‘success,’ ” the priest said, “because he knew life was not about him; he was about life.

“We don’t have designated hitters in life,” Ryan said. “A life well lived is about being responsible and doing something with the gifts you’ve been given.”

Of Bush and his beloved wife Wanda, who died in 1999, the priest said, “Their marriage was like a warm fireplace.” They were “two people in love with each other, and that love generated a warm place for … anyone who got to be part of that relationship — their family, their friends, their neighbors, their community.”

Standing tall

Three other Medal of Honor recipients attended Bush’s funeral, Lt. Thomas Norris, a Navy veteran of Vietnam and the Sixth District director of the Medal of Honor Society; James Swett, a first lieutenant during World War II, and Capt. James Taylor, who also received his medal in Vietnam.

What most impressed him about his longtime friend, Norris said during a reception after the funeral, was Bush’s “ability to give of himself, which he generously did on every occasion … Bob always took the time to give and do whatever needed to be done at whatever cost to him. … He touched people in a way that gave them inspiration and an example that will live with them for the rest of their lives.”

Capt. Robert Engelhart, commanding officer of the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital at Twentynine Palms, Calif., said Bush would sometimes call him when he was wintering in California to say he was stopping by for lunch.

The captain would scramble to clear his schedule, but never minded. Besides being the hero the hospital had been named for, Bush was “a delightful person” and “generous,” the captain said.

Moreover, he gravitated to the “young sailors and Marines” at the hospital. He was like “a magnet” for them.

They would “revel in Bob’s company, and Bob himself would revel in their company,” Engelhart told those at the reception.

Former state senator Sid Snyder, who wept during the graveside service on the hillside at Menlo, called Bush “a real hero and a great American.” Mrs. Snyder, the former Bette Kennedy, who knew Bush as a childhood friend and classmate at Willapa Valley High School, said he was “just a good guy.”

Bush’s former schoolmate Mary Wiseman said he was “happy-go-lucky.” And he didn’t change much, even after his horrific war experiences. When he returned, “he liked all of us just as much.”

Former classmate Marie Monohon also remembers those days when Bush was fresh back from battle. He was “always faithful to his country, his community and his school,” Mrs. Monohon said.

After the war, Bush played football, Mrs. Monohon said. “He had so much shrapnel that they only let him in for a few plays, but he wanted to play and be there. And the rumor was he’d never live over 10 years.”

But the intrepid Robert Eugene Bush, a modest hero who just wanted to be a hometown guy, wasn’t listening to rumors. He had things to do, places to go, people to meet.

Bush was “a never-give-up guy,” Mrs. Wiseman said.

Courage, faith & sacrifice

Robert E. Bush ~ 1926-2005

Medal of Honor Citation

for Robert E. Bush:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands on 2 May 1945.

Fearlessly braving the fury of artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire from strongly entrenched hostile positions, Petty Officer Bush constantly and unhesitatingly moved from one casualty to another to attend the wounded falling under the enemy’s murderous barrages.

As the attack passed over a ridge top, he was advancing to administer blood plasma to a Marine officer lying wounded on the skyline when the Japanese launched a savage counterattack.

In this perilously exposed position, he resolutely maintained the flow of life-giving plasma. With the bottle held high in one hand, Petty Officer Bush drew his pistol with the other and fired into the enemy’s ranks until his ammunition was expended.

Quickly seizing a discarded carbine, he trained his fire on the Japanese charging pointblank over the hill, accounting for six of the enemy despite his own serious wounds and the loss of one eye suffered during his desperate battle in defense of the helpless man.

With the hostile force finally routed, he calmly disregarded his own critical condition to complete his mission, valiantly refusing medical treatment for himself until his officer patient had been evacuated, and collapsing only after attempting to walk to the battle aid station.

Petty Officer Bush’s daring initiative, great personal valor, and inspiring devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Bob Bush in his own words

By Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin - Daily World Writer

The reception following Bob Bush’s funeral featured a video of the Medal of Honor recipient relating his battlefield experiences on May 2, 1945.

When he was growing up on Willapa Harbor, the county had a population of less than 10,000, Bush says on the tape, with 67 young men from there killed in World War II.

“All these young men, they came from my school, so I thought I could go out there, and I could make a little difference.”

Leaving Willapa Valley High School and joining the Navy at 17, Bush trained as a hospital corpsman.

The Rev. Michael Ryan, a good friend to the hero, noted at Bush’s funeral that the young man had reassured his mother, a nurse, “I’m not going off to kill anyone … I’m going off to help.”

That day on Okinawa began as “a typical morning,” Bush says on the video produced by the Medal of Honor Society. But the rifle company in the First Marine Division that the teenager was serving with met fierce resistance from the Japanese forces.

Seriously injured, Lt. James Roach was “slipping away,” recalls Bush, whose job it was to care for the wounded. “I got him going with an IV, and then … not 30 feet away, I saw a Japanese head … so I picked up Roach’s carbine.”

Bush commenced firing and continued every time he saw an enemy helmet pop up. “It was just like a shooting gallery.”

But catching sight of the young corpsman, a Japanese soldier “threw a hand grenade,” which cost Bush his right eye.

Nevertheless, Bush continued to care for the injured lieutenant until Roach was taken out of the danger. Only then did Bush himself head for help, collapsing on his way to the battle aid station.

Less than a year and seven months after he set out to “make a little difference,” Bush was home again, married to his lovely wife Wanda, back in school and just 19 years old. But he never forgot Okinawa.

“You had to remember that you weren’t the greatest soldier, the greatest medic of all time,” the modest hero says in the video. “You were just another one doing their job.

“My sincere feeling is that we wear the Medal in honor of those who didn’t get it and should have had it and also those who didn’t come home.”

Sixty years after that fateful day on Okinawa, a 21-gun salute honored the hero who had worn the Medal of Honor for so many others. The stirring strains of “Taps” drifted away in the crisp autumn air high on the hillside of Menlo’s Fern Hill Cemetery.

As the graveside service was concluding, four Navy fighter jets screamed in from the north. Suddenly, one peeled off and soared high and away, in the classic “Missing Man” formation to honor a fallen hero. The other three continued on together over the rolling green Willapa Hills.

“Gone forever,” one red-eyed veteran said, heading down the hill after the service.

But not forgotten — not ever.

Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 532-4000, ext. 142, or by e-mail at tgatlin@thedailyworld.com
Bush, 79, who died of cancer Nov. 8, grew up in Pacific County and received the medal for his heroism as an 18-year-old Navy medical corpsman on Okinawa in 1945. Bush lost an eye and nearly died as he came to the aid of others during a savage World War II battle. He dedicated the next 60 years of his life to caring and sharing as he “lived the American dream,” said Brady.

The general, who lives at Lake Tapps, received the Medal of Honor himself for airlifting 51 seriously wounded soldiers under enemy fire during his second tour in Vietnam as a medical evacuation helicopter pilot.

“Bob was a magnum opus,” the Army man said, glancing around the congregation with a twinkle in his eye. “And for you Marines out there, that’s another word for ‘masterpiece.’

“Bob was a friend to many who do not know him,” the general said. “No one lived the American dream better than Bob. I told that to Tom Brokaw” — who profiled Bush in his best-seller, “The Greatest Generation” — “and he agreed.”

“Bob’s life is a monument to courage, faith and sacrifice,” said Brady, who, like Bush, has served as president of the Medal of Honor Society.