Reactions from local leaders and former Army generals in the Killeen area poured in Saturday as residents learned of the death of President George H.W. Bush, 94, who steered the country during the Gulf War in 1990-91.

“We’ve lost a true hero,” said retired Gen. James D. Thurman, who lives in the Salado area. “My thoughts and prayers are with the Bush family. When I think of President Bush, I think of a man with impeccable character — a humble, but a true leader who I respected so much, and the way he approached his leadership to run our country was evident every time I came in contact with him.”

Thurman, a four-star general, remembered a message he once received from Bush.

“He sent me a personal email during very dark days in Baghdad I’ll never forget, just encouraging me to be a good leader and to continue to understand what our mission was,” said Thurman, who commanded the former Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division into combat in Iraq in 2005 and 2006.

Former III Corps commander Lt. Gen. Paul “Butch” Funk Sr. said “41” was his favorite president.

“He was remarkable in his feeling for the military, his knowledge of the U.S. as well as world affairs, and I think without doubt that he was the best prepared person to be president. I don’t think anybody is fully prepared, but by virtue of his great value, he was a first-class public servant who also had a good character. He was humble, selfless, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the most astute leaders in foreign affairs we’ve ever had,” the retired three-star general said.

Funk said his real affection for Bush came during Operation Desert Storm, in which he was a commander. The President gave troops five objectives — once they were accomplished, they came home, Funk said.

“We are not imperialist. We don’t seek to hold ground for our own benefit, financial or otherwise, and he personified that,” Funk said. “Frankly, I thought that was the strongest national security team in the United States since World War II.

“I only met him one time face-to-face, but I just thought he was a hell of a guy.”

Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, the commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood and the son of Paul Funk Sr., offered his condolences to the Bush family Saturday.

“III Corps and Fort Hood salutes President George H.W. Bush’s life of service to our Nation,” he said in a statement. “Under President Bush’s resolute leadership, more than 25,000 Fort Hood Soldiers were victorious in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. My family and the entire Phantom Corps sends condolences to the Bush family.”

Area elected officials are released statements on Bush’s passing. Here’s what they said:

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin: “America has lost a great servant, and I have lost a great friend. George H.W. Bush epitomized everything wonderful about America, and like his country, he was tough, strong, and kind. He changed this nation and he changed the world. Many times, it was President Bush who I turned to for sage advice and wisdom. He encouraged me to follow a path to public service and has been an inspiration throughout my life. Those who knew President Bush knew that his love for his country was only surpassed by his love for his family. This is an immeasurable loss for America, but I am comforted knowing that he has been reunited with his beloved, Barbara Bush, and is now with the Lord. My family and I will continue praying for the entire Bush family during this difficult time.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas: “Today, American hearts are heavy as we bid farewell to President George H.W. Bush. He will be remembered as a good and faithful servant to his country, whose great legacy of leadership and love of homeland became a family tradition, earned him the admiration of countless Americans, and secured him a special place in the memory of every Texan. Over his storied career, President Bush was a war hero and a businessman, a legislator and an ambassador. His time as Vice President prepared him well for the heavy burdens of that highest office, steering our nation through the fall of the Berlin Wall and the First Gulf War. President Bush was the last of the Greatest Generation to sit in the Oval Office, but his resolve will not be lost to the past; it will triumph onward. In his words, ‘the old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in. Today, George and his beloved Barbara are together, enjoying a well-deserved rest from their labors.”

Texas District 24 Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway: “Our country has lost one of its greatest statesmen with the death of former President George Herbert Walker Bush. The heartbreaking news comes just months after the funeral of his beloved wife, and former first lady, Barbara Bush. America’s longest married “first couple” are together again, reunited in spirit. The 41st President and Mrs. Bush demonstrated to the world that true love is enduring. That love at first sight is a godsend, not a fairy tale. Thank you for your sacrifices, your service to our country, your commitment to public service and for the many blessings that you bestowed upon us. God be with you both and may you rest in peace.

Texas House District 54 Rep. Scott Cosper, R-Killeen: “He served his country well and was a great American. He and his family have set an example of service for all.”

Texas House District 54 Rep.-elect Brad Buckley, R-Salado: “President Bush was a man who placed priority on his faith, his family, and his service to our country, and we are a better people and a better nation because of his service and his legacy.” | 254-501-7553

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