A taste of Hawai'i before heading home
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President Bush thanked a community volunteer, dined with his military commander in the Pacific and got a night's rest in Honolulu yesterday on a brief stopover en route home from Southeast Asia.
"It was a genuine moment that I will always treasure," said Eloise Monsarrat of Moanalua, who received the President's Volunteer Service Award from Bush upon his arrival at Hickam Air Force Base at 5:25 p.m.
No public appearances were scheduled for Bush's 16-hour stay, which wraps up this morning. Bush is scheduled to have breakfast today at the Hickam officers club with about 300 troops selected from across the services, then receive an in-depth briefing at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith.
First lady Laura Bush is scheduled to meet with military families at Camp Smith this morning.
The only time the public will notice that the president is in town is when his motorcade makes the short trip from Hickam to Camp Smith in Halawa Heights and back. Officials did not disclose any specific times or route.
Air Force One is scheduled to leave Hickam at 9:20 a.m. Bush arrived after a 12-hour flight from Indonesia, the last stop on his six-day Southeast Asia visit.
The president last visited Hawai'i in October 2003, when he attended ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial and the battleship Missouri and visited Pearl Harbor Elementary School.
Bush last night made no statement to the press corps that covered his arrival at Hickam and dinner at the historic palm-lined Pearl Harbor home of Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific.
The president and first lady spent the night in distinguished visitor quarters at the Makalapa headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Although the reception line was headed by such local dignitaries as Gov. Linda Lingle, Fallon and Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Bush spent the most time during his Hickam reception with Monsarrat and her husband, Roger.
Bush presented Eloise Monsarrat with a pin signifying her national volunteer award. Monsarrat, 84, has devoted more than 10,000 hours as a volunteer pet handler with the Human Animal Bond Program at Tripler Army Medical Center. Specially chosen dogs, cats and rabbits are brought to patients to help with therapy.
The pin will adorn her American Red Cross uniform tomorrow when she returns to volunteer work at Tripler, she said.
Bush expressed his appreciation for her work with animals and people, said Monsarrat, who presented the president and first lady with silk-shredded lei, and also two smaller lei for their dogs.
There was a light moment when Monsarrat placed a beige lei on the president, only to realize it was the wrong one. She plucked it back and replaced it with a red one. Bush gave the press corps a bemused, broad smile.
"The president told me it was a win-win job because I enjoy it as much as the people (who are patients) do," Monsarrat said. "The president giving me the pin means a lot — I think it motivates you to do more. It's great that the president gives recognition to volunteers."
The presidential award is a thumbnail-sized pin with an eagle crest, Monsarrat said. She does not plan to take it out of the box until she puts it on her uniform.
The president spent several minutes with the Monsarrats and posed for a photograph with her and her husband.
"I looked forward to it so much that it felt like it was gone too soon," Eloise Monsarrat said.
Lingle presented an 'ilima lei to the president while Fallon greeted the first lady with a maile-combination lei. Mary Fallon, the commander's wife, welcomed National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley with a lei. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received a pikake lei from Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.
Along with Hannemann, others in the reception line included State Sen. Bob Hogue, state Republican Party Chairman Sam Aiona, and Col. J.J. Torres, Hickam base commander, and his wife, Irene.
The president invited the governor and Fallon to ride in his limousine before making his way down the reception line, according to Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior communications adviser. Bush also commented twice to Lt. Gov. Aiona that he was happy to be back in America, Klompus said.
Sam Aiona described Bush as a "very personable individual" and felt the president's warmth in the reception line. But it was the first lady who caught Aiona's attention.
"She was the first person out of the plane, and when I saw her waving to the crowd, I just thought to myself how genuine she is," he said.
Hannemann, who served as a White House fellow under then Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1983, yesterday asked the president to say hello to his father and Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. Chao worked as a White House fellow at the same time that he did, Hannemann said.
"The lieutenant governor and I were able to chat with Mrs. Bush and she told us the trip to Asia went very well and that she was very impressed with Vietnam," Hannemann said.
Small groups turned out along the route to distinguished visitor quarters at Makalapa to wave as the motorcade passed through the military base about 7:45 p.m.
One woman held a sign reading, "We support you Mr. President," but there were not many other signs.
The Hawai'i layover comes as Bush achieved mixed results at a meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam with a verbal, but not written, denunciation of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and a high-security stopover in Indonesia where nearly 10,000 protesters turned out.
The president also stopped in Singapore. Back in Washington, Bush faces a growing debate about what to do with the war in Iraq.The Associated Press contributed to this report.