Former President George H.W. Bush will be honored with a special military flyover at his funeral service in Texas Thursday.
Several F/A-18 jets departed the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach Tuesday to take part in the 41st president’s funeral service Thursday, WTKR-TV reported. Twenty-one planes will conduct a missing man flyover for the ceremony.
The lead jet, flown by Capt. Kevin “Proton” McLaughlin, has “President George H.W. Bush ‘41’” on its side, according to photos shared by the U.S. Naval Air Forces on social media. Barbara Bush's name is also included on the jet.
“To be even a small part of this ceremony means a lot to me,” McLaughlin told WTKR, adding he joined the Navy when Bush was president.
The missing man flyover – a high honor bestowed by the military – “is a symbolic final farewell to a great man who left a tremendous legacy of selfless service to his nation and his family,” he told WVEC-TV.
Aside from his storied political career, Bush was a Navy pilot. He joined the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942. At one point the youngest pilot in the Navy, he flew 58 missions off the carrier USS San Jacinto.
His wartime exploits won him the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. He was shot down on Sept. 2, 1944, while completing a bombing run against a Japanese radio tower. Eight others who were shot down in that mission were captured and executed, and several were eaten by their captors. But an American submarine rescued Bush. Even then, he was an inveterate collector of friends: Aboard the sub Finback, "I made friendships that have lasted a lifetime," he would write.
Bush died at the age of 94 on Nov. 30 at his home in Texas. He is being mourned and honored in Washington, D.C., this week before his body will return to Texas to be buried.
His final resting place will be the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at the age of 3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.