AIS Employee Pays Tribute to 41st President of the United States, George H. W. Bush

Story from Robert Coccaro, Project Manager for Adaptive Systems Technologies

“I want to say thank you to our leadership at AIS for providing all employees with a day away from the office to honor President George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. This is a perfect example of our leadership’s generosity and commitment to honoring those who serve our country.

I also want to take a moment and share my story of meeting the 41st President of the United States. “41” was a Naval Aviator war hero whose fighter jet was shot down in World War II. After his plane was hit, he was ejected and parachuted into the Pacific Ocean, where he was later rescued. It is rumored that after the incident he said, “The next time I jump out of a plane it will be because I want to.” I was part of the United States Army Parachute Team for several years, and in the summer of 2004, President Bush wanted to jump out of a plane again to celebrate his 80th birthday and the opening of his Presidential Library. In fact, he wanted to jump right into the opening ceremony for the new library. This was his fifth parachute jump, believe it or not. He had made a jump with the Army Parachute Team in the past, as well as other qualified organizations. The execution of this effort was designated as “Operation 41@80.” The 41st President at 80 years old.

The picture above was taken at a small airport in College Station, Texas. Before the opening of the library we spent an entire week with the Bush family, taking them on tandem parachute jumps. During this time, I was fortunate enough to speak with the president several times and Mrs. Bush as well. The banter between them was comical, just as you’d expect of a lifelong couple. I will always remember one conversation I had with 41 about aircrafts. He educated me on the type of private plane I should buy and the pros and cons of different models.

I told him, “Sir, I’m just an Army guy, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford my own plane.” He responded quickly, “Son this is America, you can do anything you put your mind to.”

President Bush would go on to make another parachute jump for his 90th birthday as well. Blue skies and calm winds wishes for 41.”

About Robert Coccaro
Robert, a Project Manager for the Adaptive Systems Technologies Group, has been with AIS for ­­­6 months. He retired from the Army in 2010 after 20 years of service and has completed more than 2,500 freefall parachute jumps. His Army experiences include communications, electronic warfare and human intelligence collections (HUMINT). He is a veteran of four tours in Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor.

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