Barbara Bush died last month at the age of 92. But, she left behind quite the legacy. She was funny, kind and loved most by those closest to her. She devoted herself to the cause of literacy. She was open about her battles with depression. However, it was one simple request she made of a Secret Service officer that showed, to him, who she really was. Now, he’s sharing it with the world.
In an Op-Ed for CNN, Jonathan Wackrow — a former Secret Service officer — talked about his time around the former first lady. “As a special agent with the United States Secret Service, I had the opportunity to work on many protective assignments with Mrs. Bush,” Wackrow wrote.
“While I was never permanently assigned to her detail, I am thankful for two specific moments with Mrs. Bush, ones I will cherish as defining experiences in my career and testaments to her legacy, her candor and grace.
“The first occurred when I was a new agent, assigned to work a midnight shift at the Bush family’s summer residence in Kennebunkport, Maine,” he noted. “I was walking in the front yard at daybreak, preparing to end my shift, when Mrs. Bush suddenly appeared.
“In my world, it was better to be unseen, but in this instant, I was in the former first lady’s full view with nowhere to hide. Mrs. Bush gave me the warmest smile and said, ‘Well, it is good morning for me, but it looks like you have been up all night, so I will wish you a good night’s sleep.’ Stunned, I thanked her.”
But that wasn’t all, even though Bush “was the first Secret Service protectee I had ever spoken to.” The biggest impression Bush made on Wackrow came some time later.
“Many years later, I encountered Mrs. Bush again when she made a visit to the New Jersey area. This time, I was driving her limo from New York City to an appointment in New Jersey,” Wackrow wrote.
“The motorcade was small and unassuming — traits that Mrs. Bush appreciated — consisting of a few Secret Service vehicles and one unmarked New York police vehicle. But upon exiting the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey, we were joined by an assortment of New Jersey State Police vehicles and motorcycles operating with full lights and sirens.
“Typically, this was not the way that the former first lady liked to travel, as it drew undue attention. However, in this instance — with her husband’s presidency behind her — she was thrilled. Taking a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, I could see an amazing smile illuminating her face as she turned to her staff in the back seat, exclaiming, ‘They remember me! We have not had this much excitement since the White House!’”
And that’s when she decided to do something very special.
“After her meeting, as the motorcade started to travel back to New York, Mrs. Bush leaned forward and asked the head of her protective detail if we could stop before getting back into New York City, as she wanted to thank all the police officers who, she said, ‘so warmly welcomed me to New Jersey,’” Wackrow wrote.
“Peering out the limo’s back windshield, I will never forget the image of Mrs. Bush shaking hands with the officers. It was a genuine moment of sincerity and unguarded kindness delivered out of the public eye, which, to me, defined this great woman.”
Rest in peace, Mrs. Bush. America needs people like you now more than ever but I guess God needs you more.