Two of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers are feeling the April 17 loss of former First Lady Barbara Bush, who was quite involved with both the aircraft carrier George Washington and the ship named for her husband, the George H.W. Bush.

On July 21, 1990, she broke a ceremonial bottle of champagne over the bow of the George Washington as the ship’s sponsor.

Naval Air Forces Atlantic announced April 18 that the flags of both vessels have been taken to half-mast and will remain so until Mrs. Bush is laid to rest. Both flags will then be presented to the Bush family.

“Her legacy will be long remembered by those who have served and will serve aboard USS George Washington,” the announcement said. “We will always remember her with the honor and distinction that her life’s service to our country embodied.”

George and Barbara’s daughter, Dorothy “Doro” Bush Koch, was the sponsor of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, but the entire family was involved during its construction, at the 2009 commissioning ceremony and beyond.

“Today we join the world in mourning the passing of a truly remarkable person, Mrs. Barbara Bush,” Capt. Sean Bailey, commanding officer of the carrier Bush, said in the release. “A strong and compassionate First Lady, a devoted matriarch and champion of literacy, she graced our deckplates on multiple occasions and treated all who served aboard USS George H. W. Bush like her own family.

“As we reflect on her inspirational life and many achievements, we endeavor to proudly carry her legacy and her enduring example of devotion to family aboard our ship. She will be truly missed.”

The carrier Bush’s first commanding officer to take the ship to sea in 2009, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, maintained a close relationship with both the former president and first lady.

The now-commander of Naval Air Forces recalled the family fondly in the press release.

“For those of us who have had the privilege of serving onboard the ship that bears her husband’s name – Mrs. Bush was a source of inspiration,” Miller said. “She impacted lives around the world through her advocacy of literacy and she impacted the lives of USS George H.W. Bush Sailors and their families in much the same way.

“Her sharp wit, humor and sincere love for those who served on her ‘favorite’ ship was clearly apparent ... During one at-sea period, I’ll never forget her donning a chef’s hat and handing out cookies, with a big smile and kind message to each sailor she met.”

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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