Katy VFW members remember Bush’s visit
The Katy Veterans Memorial Museum includes a special section for former president George H.W. Bush, who helped to dedicate the original facility in 1996.
Bob Orkand, a life member of Katy VFW Post 9182 who now lives in Huntsville, chaired the VFW’s Museum Committee. As construction of the initial museum neared completion, the roughly dozen members, including Betty Edmundson, talked about who might be invited as the guest speaker.
From the end of the table, recalls Orkand, “Someone said jokingly aloud, ’Hey, maybe we could invited President Bush!”
“Well, we all had a good laugh at this ridiculous suggestion,” said Orkand. “But a few moments later, someone at the table piped up, “You know, Charlie Nava (a committee member) golfs with President Bush on a regular basis.”
“All of a sudden the room became quiet and we began to ponder the possibilities,” said Orkand. “The invitation to President Bush was extended on the golf course and we arranged with the City of Katy to change the name of Sixth Street to George Bush Drive on the day of the dedication.”
Nava played golf a lot with Bush, said Edmundson. “It caused quite a show when he (Bush) replied that he’d like to be here (for the dedication).”
“It was a fantastic time and a fantastic day,” said Edmundson, assistant museum curator and secretary of the Katy VFW Post 9182 Auxiliary.
The Secret Service accompanying Bush asked Edmundson to help them with seating and other logistics. “I assisted in making sure that everyone who was with Mr. Bush that day had the proper seating where they wanted them placed.
“They were super, super people,” she recalled. “That was a fabulous day for the VFW here and for the City of Katy. Mr. Bush had eye surgery the day before. He still insisted on coming out to the dedication. He was the most gracious person I’ve ever met.”
The VFW presented him with a few gifts, which Edmundson said now are included in The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station.
“He was very impressed with what we had in the museum,” she added. Before Bush, who was a VFW member, left, he gave the names and specifics of his two comrades who died when their plane was shot down. The pair are included on the memorial board in the museum, she said.
Orkand said Mrs. Bush was unable to attend, but the president came with his former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, who was a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general.
A former Pentagon spokesman, Orkand introduced Bush at the dedication.
“As I stood next to President Bush to introduce him to the audience, I realized how tall he was. I’m an even six feet, but he towered over me by about four inches. I began my introduction by telling the crowd that our speaker was a former USNR lieutenant junior grade who had gone on to achieve greatness.
“He was indeed a great man and will be sorely missed around the world,” added Orkand, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel of infantry.
When the museum closed for renovations in 2010 and was set to reopen a year later, Edmundson said VFW members hoped that Bush could come back for the rededication, but his health wasn’t the best. “He graciously sent us a very nice letter saying he’d have to decline. He’s always been a very special person here at the VFW.”
Tax Day floods in 2016 followed by Harvey-related flooding in 2017 damaged some items, including the letter from Bush, said Edmundson,who invites people to visit the museum. It’s one of the few in the state that has a complete set of congressional medals of honor and covers all conflicts.
“We have quite a bit of information and hope to be able to continue to grow.”