George H.W. Bush and Ken Hartle: American Grit

Before there were safe zones and meditation rooms, a generation of patriots went where they were needed and served our country. They served out of a passionate sense of duty and expected nothing in return, facing unfathomable munitions in lands thousands of miles from home.

Looking at President Bush 41 wheeled onto the field in Houston last night was a moment of reverie for many. He’s ailing, but as hard as it was for him to smile, his eyes acknowledged the respect this country felt for him. Prominent families have a history of sending their sons into the military; sometimes they need it to provide discipline to an otherwise unmotivated individual, and sometimes this country ends up needing their service more. George H.W. Bush served as a pilot, was shot down and survived enemy fire before being rescued by a submarine. His crew was killed and their bodies mutilated, and President Bush chose to return to combat after his rescue. We needed George Bush more than he needed the Navy.

Ken Hartle was a diver for the Navy – a Seabee who for two years after the attacks of Pearl Harbor, dove repeatedly in 200 pounds of gear to retrieve live ammunition and bodies of killed American soldiers in the waters of Oahu. By 10 years old, he had lost his parents and several siblings to sickness. He worked at multiple jobs before he was in college, and suffered incredible physical pain; kicked in the face by a mule at 3, stabbed in the neck during a fight at 9, survived a horrific car crash, was bitten by a rattlesnake and stung by a scorpion while mining. He survived colon and prostate cancer, and broke his shoulder doing yard work at 97. Ken Hartle died last week at 103, as tough a man that you can find. We needed Mr. Hartle more than he needed the Navy.

We have pride in these stories because we know that the President and Ken Hartle, regardless of their family’s financial means, had a history of service for this country. Bush came from money, Ken did not. But they are examples of people who put country before themselves their entire lives. We long to see complete, unabashed commitment to the greatness of this country in our citizens. Sadly, some will always need to know their safe place is out there, and that there will always be a coddling hand to scare away the boogey man. But this is a great country made up of people with a heritage of service and it’s within all of us to serve a cause greater than ourselves. Watching President Bush reminded us all of that last night.

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