MISSOULA – The nation has been celebrating the life of former President George H. W. Bush since his passing.
The funeral procession was made possible by the work of trained servicemen and US Navy Seaman Anthony Byrns helped to carry the casket of the former president on Thursday.
“It’s a surreal feeling. It’s almost unreal. Coming from a small town — Hot Springs is tiny — so I never expected to be rendering honors for George Bush or a former president in general,” Byrns said. “It’s one of those things, it’s kind of hard to accept all at once.”
He grew up in Hot Springs and is now a casket bearer in the Navy Ceremonial Guard, “it’s been one heck of an experience, it’s definitely one of those things that I’m gonna remember for the rest of my life.”
Byrns was joined by one other Montanan for the state funeral; Seaman Kyle Wilson from Sidney was also a casket bearer.
The two perfected flag folding and funeral procession during an eight-week special training. and march in daily funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
Wilson says it was an honor to march in a state funeral.
“At first for me, I was extremely nervous. You’ve got video cameras on you, you’ve got former president George W Bush there as well, you’ve got citizens of America watching, you’ve got all these eyes on you,” Wilson said.
Byrns packed his bags and got to the airport a few hours after he got the call. He was up for 30 hours straight to make it to Houston on time.
Byrns and Wilson have friends who carried former US Senator John McCain’s casket but said they had never experienced anything like this before.
They and 10 others carried the casket to remember the life of the 41st president.
“But as soon as you step off, and you start your march and you execute it with precision from then on out you get a sense of pride. Everything’s boosted, you feel like you can accomplish anything,” Wilson said.
The Ceremonial Guard is a special unit composed of 230 people out of 400,000 in the whole Navy.
Byrns and Wilson expressed gratitude for all the support they’ve received and say they were honored to represent Montana.
-Katie Miller reporting for MTN News