Monday, December 22, 2008

During her holiday weekend preparations, first lady The Washington Times and reflect on her husband’s private efforts to comfort families who lost loved ones in the wars and to encourage wounded soldiers in their recovery.

“Well, of course, visiting with the families of the fallen is one of the most touching, moving parts of this job that George has. I remember best the most recent, which was on the Intrepid on Veterans Day, when we met with nine different families. I remember them all very well, but one story that stands out in my mind was this sister who had written a biography of her brother that she lost. So she asked if she could read it to us. And of course we wanted her to read it us. It was very, very sweet. And she actually was a very, very good writer, and it was beautifully written. But it represents every single family that wanted us to know about their loved ones, and what they were like, what their sense of humor was like, what they liked to do, and what they were good at. And that was just the most obvious one because she had written a whole story and even wanted us to hear it.”

“It was the same when we met all the different families that had someone who died on Sept. 11, and the same thing where they had the cards. And I have a lot of them, many that will go to the Archives. But I kept one on my mirror to remind me and represent everybody that died on Sept. 11. There were families who would have their loved one’s picture on a card that they would hand to us and tell us about their family member.”

“One of the things that the president does and that I think is so great. George is really, really great with young people. I mean I’ve always known that. He’s always been really terrific with kids, and with young people. Of course, he was a really wonderful father to Barbara and Jenna. He has great way of sort of laughing and talking, especially with boys. I remember when we met with the astronauts’ families and the big family of the Israeli astronaut that had four boys, maybe even five. I can’t remember for sure. But how George talked to each one of them and just could talk in a way that a man can talk to young men that is I think both reassuring for them and in a lot of ways is supporting them, that builds them up with what they say and what they are interested in. So I see that when we meet also with the families of the fallen, the way he talks with brothers and sisters who have lost their brother or sister.”

“It is just so unbelievably emotional to be with the families, for everybody involved. I mean for us and for them and for everyone. I’m very aware of how emotional it is and how draining it is for the president and for me, too. Both of us. But I think we do support each other, not by saying anything so much but just by the comfort of each other’s presence, both when we are with the families and then afterwards when we are alone.”

“Because these are so personal, these are such personal times when people grieve. And we grieve with them. And these are not times when you would want a camera in the room or other people around. They are very emotional, personal times. And for all of these families to be in a room with the commander in chief who made the decision to send their loved one in harm’s way is, you know, a wrenching time for us and for them. For all of us, the consequences of the choices that a commander in chief makes are clear. It’s all about them and their grief.

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