I am pleased to be here this evening to share with you more about the recipient of the Medal of Honor behind the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital. My dad was very proud of your hospital and loved to visit Twenty-nine Palms. He was a great man from the Greatest Generation, and Iím proud to be his son.
You may not know that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the commission of the Medal of Honor by President Abraham Lincoln. 3458 medals have been awarded with the greatest number going to Civil War soldiers. 453 medals were awarded for gallantry in World War ll of which my dad, Robert E. Bush was one of those recipients.
Bob was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1926 to his mother, Stella, a nurse, and Carl, a logger. His parents soon divorced and Bob and his sister Betty went with their mother to a little town on the Washington coast called South Bend. They were very poor and had to live in the basement of the hospital and ate whatever was being served to the patients. It was not a very family friendly environment. When Bob was in 8th grade his mother remarried, but was still working long hours which gave Bob plenty of time to get in all kinds of trouble. He was sent to a boarding school from which he promptly ran away. He was sent back home and lived with another family and was mentored by the high school football coach.
That structure turned his life around. At the age of 17 and in his junior year of high school, Bob opted to join the Navy. He was selected for training as a medical corpsman. He was sent to the Russell Islands in the Pacific with a Marine rifle company. On May 2, 1945 after encountering heavy enemy fire, Bob was wounded while giving life-saving aid to his fallen lieutenant. He lost an eye and was pierced with shrapnel. He continued fighting, refusing treatment until the lieutenant had been evacuated. He collapsed on the way to the aid station. Bob was hospitalized for 2 months and then was sent home.
He returned to high school in the fall and graduated and began seeing his childhood sweetheart Wanda Spooner. He received a call from the Secretary of the Navy informing him he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. Bob and Wanda were married and made the trip to Washington D.C., by train, their honeymoon. President Harry S. Truman awarded Bob the medal on October 5, 1945 the day after he turned 18.
Bob and Wanda returned to South Bend and started married life with Bob working in a meat market and Wanda as a beautician. I was born the following July. It was at this point that a friend of Bobís asked him to take care of his little lumberyard while he went on vacation for 2 weeks. 2 weeks turned into 3 and the next time he called, Bob said why donít you stay on vacation and sell the lumberyard to me? Thus began Bobís long career in the lumber business. He purchased the lumberyard with his friend Vic. During the day they both worked the counter and after hours they did pick up building materials and made job-site deliveries. He and Vic eventually turned this business into 7 lumberyards, a red i-mix plant, a glass shop, and other small businesses. One thing Bob never shied away from was hard work and opportunities.
But Bob also liked to have fun! With only one eye he still succeeded in getting his private pilotís license. I was around 12 years old before I knew he only had one eye and was oblivious that these friends who visited our home were the likes of Jimmy Doolittle, Joe Foss, Pappy Boyington, Don Ross, and Don Gary to name a few. Bob also organized a yearly fishing trip for fellow recipients and some of the early astronauts including Buzz Aldrin and Bob Crippen.
Bob and Wanda enjoyed over 50 years plus together before her death. They worked hard, raised four children, traveled, and enjoyed life to the fullest. Even tho he was a true hero, Bob remained humble and there were no strangers in his life --- only friends he had yet to meet.
Bob loved flying, so upon his death I called Barney Barnum at the Pentagon and he arranged a cemetery fly-over of Navy A-6 intruders. A few years before his death, Bob was featured in Tom Brokawís book ďThe Greatest GenerationĒ. I would like to read the following letter from Tom that was read at his funeral:
November 10, 2005
To all Bobís many friends and his family a great American spirit has been dimmed, but it can never be extinguished, for Bobís enthusiasm for life, family, service, and especially hard work was so great that we were all caught in the glow. He was for me an emblematic member of the Greatest Generation, a selfless, and self-made man who set the bar high in uniform and out, and I donít think Iíve known any member of his generation who had more fun telling everyone around him to work a little harder. One of the great joyís of my life was getting to know Bob and telling his story in my book and on television. I think in his memory we should all put in an extra hour at the office today. All my love and respect, Tom Brokaw
Bob passed on the hard work ethic and opportunity to his children. I began driving a concrete truck at the age of 15, before I even had a driverís license. I worked in pretty much every aspect of the lumber business finally purchasing my own store in 1985. We are now on the 3rd generation.
I was afforded many wonderful opportunities growing up. I attended my 1st Presidential Inauguration at the age of 14, which was the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. It was at this time I followed Col. Ed Michaels around with my little camera. He was the Medal of Honor Societyís unofficial photographer at the time and I learned a lot from him.
Photography has always been a hobby of mine and this led to me becoming the Medal of Honor Societyí s staff photographer which I have done for the last 20 years. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute in documenting the history of the Medal of Honor Society. I have been to numerous Presidential inaugurations since and many wonderful Medal of Honor Society conventions now held annually. At our last recent convention in Louisville, Kentucky I had the honor and privilege of meeting the newest recipients, Sal Giunta, LeRoy Petry, and Dakota Meyer. I believe that history will show that the performance of our all volunteer military forces of today, will also be one of the greatest generations.
In 2006, at the convention in Boston, the living recipients were presented the Congressional Medal of Honor flag aboard the USS Constitution. Bob had already passed away but had been alive when it was authorized by Congress, so I accepted it on his behalf. I am here now to present his flag to Captain Ann Bobeck for the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital.
Dad is my hero and Iím sure his mother is very proud of him.
On behalf of Betty and me and the whole Bush family I would like to thank you for your service to our Country and The Navy for putting Dadís name on such a wonderful health care facility.
Robert M. (Mick) Bush