Jenna Bush Hager presents her grandfather's accessible car to disabled Navy vet
By JAYME DEERWESTER | USA Today | Published: April 25, 2019
NEW YORK CITY (Tribune News Service) — "Today" host Jenna Bush Hager and former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno teamed up Thursday to surprise Navy veteran David Miller with some new wheels. They pulled up to Rockefeller Plaza in New York City in a van as Miller and his family were interviewed by Savannah Guthrie and Craig Melvin.
The Chrysler Pacifica wasn't just any old minivan: It was the exact one used by Bush Hager's late grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, who died in November. It was customized by a company called BraunAbility, and the late president used it to get around during the final years of his life when he was in a wheelchair.
"The bad news is it's a used car," Leno told Miller. "The good news is it was owned by a Navy hero. And that hero was President George H.W. Bush."
"George Bush Sr.," Miller asked incredulously. "I love that man!"
Leno told him, "We thought you were the appropriate man to give this to."
The "Today" host, who said she rode in the van many times, also gave Miller a framed letter from her father, President George W. Bush. It read, "41 would be proud to know that a fellow sailor will take his seat in the van and I know he would join me in thanking you for your contributions to our country."
Bush Hager, who announced earlier this week that she's expecting her third child, added, "I hope you and your family have as many happy memories in this van as my family did."
Miller suffered a seizure aboard USS Nimitz in 2017 during a deployment to the Middle East in 2017. He was medivaced to a hospital in Bahrain and later diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy, or ataxia, a rare, incurable brain disorder affecting a person's ability to move and speak.
As a result, Miller said, "My motor skills as far as walking and doing physical labor is very limited and my speech is slurred."
According to the National Institutes of Health, ataxia is often a progressive disorder known to eventually rob patients of their ability to walk.
The van, which can accommodate a wheelchair should Miller need one, isn't the only Bush possession that is now helping other navy veterans.
After Bush 41 died in November 2018 at age 94, his beloved service dog, Sully, has become a therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was sworn in as a Navy corpsman.
His oath began: "Sully H.W. Bush, do you affirm — or pant — as a hospital corpsman in the United States Navy that you will support, comfort and cheer our warriors and their families, active duty and retired?"
During the oath, Sully was asked to provide "unconditional love and solace, especially on busy days," and acknowledge that the responsibility came "without any promise of treats or tummy rubs."
The dog was asked to "shake" at the conclusion of the oath.
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