I met Col. Ray “Frenchy” L’Heureux in D.C. last year. A real squared-away Marine!
By Dan Lamothe – Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jan 20, 2009 18:14:22 EST
For the first time in eight years, the Marine helicopter that George W. Bush flew in Tuesday was not called Marine One when he boarded.
It was a day of mixed emotions for the Marines of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the Quantico, Va.-based unit that regularly carries the president. Squadron members said they were excited to be participating in the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, but will miss Bush for his friendship and kindness.
“It has been a once in a lifetime,” Col. Ray L’Heureux, the squadron commander, said of serving Bush. “I’m not going to lie: to some extent, [the inauguration] is bittersweet. He has been extra kind to us and to everyone at the White House Military Office.”
L’Heureux said he and Bush have cycled together numerous times since he took over as commander of HMX-1, which uses the Marine One call sign only to identify an aircraft on which the president is traveling.
Sgt. Jordan Hardy, a security guard with the squadron, said he hit it off with Bush in part after the former president learned Hardy was from Merkel, Texas, a town of 2,500 people about a three-hour drive from Crawford, where Bush has a ranch.
“I built trails with him a few times on the ranch,” Hardy, 26, said of Bush’s home. “He said he knew one of the old-timers from Merkel from when he was in the oil business.”
Hardy and many of the other Marines with the squadron who took part in the inauguration ceremony volunteered for the duty, taking turns standing watch over their aircraft in dress blues in blustery weather that included temperatures below 20 degrees and blustery winds.
“I wanted to come,” Hardy said. “It’s a part of history.”