Utahns featured in Former President George W. Bush’s book
May 27, 2018, 5:55 PM | Updated: May 28, 2018, 6:53 am
SALT LAKE CITY — There are stories of sacrifice, struggle, and triumph when you talk about service to your country. One of those stories is told by Former President George W. Bush, “At age 30, Sgt. Josh Hansen left his comfortable life as a small business owner to serve his country in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.”
Coming home was tough, Hansen said, “I lost 4 of my men by suicide here at home.”
Leslie Zimmerman who also served in the Iraq War said, “We can fight back…. not as military but as civilians.”
Hansen and Zimmerman not only have the war in the common, they also both have their stories featured by former President George W. Bush.
Out of the blue, Iraq war vets Hasen and Zimmerman got an unexpected invitation.
Hansen said, “I received an email that said the president requests your presence at his birthday party, his 70th birthday party, I couldn’t believe it. Showed it to my wife and was like wow, how do you turn that down?”
That’s when they learned former President George W. Bush had included their stories in his book, “Portraits of Courage.”
“We we were all sitting there at the BBQ and he pulls out his I-pad and was showing everybody the pictures that he had painted and it was, I mean, a very surreal moment, where you think this former commander in chief, has taken the time
out to take my portrait,” said Zimmerman
The honor was hard to believe, Hansen said, “A lot of people paint presidents but it is pretty rare that president’s paint veterans.”
While releasing the “Portraits of Courage,” book last year President Bush told NBC news during an interview, “Someone I painted said paint the faces nobody knows. I decided that this would be a wonderful opportunity to honor
those who served.”
The Iraq war has claimed the lives of thousands of American soldiers and left many more suffering with wounds both physically and mentally. The George W. Bush Center has programs that help veterans transition from military into civilian life. And proceeds from this book will be donated to the George W. Bush Presidential Center and its Military Service Initiative.
It was one of these programs, where Josh told of his struggles and the loss of his men.
Hansen remembered what the former president said, “You led them during war, let’s do it here at home.”
Hansen took those words to heart and created Continue Mission, a non-profit organization that helps veterans remain active.
“I knew it helped my recovery and for my depression and mental health issues, getting outside and exercising has been a tremendous help for me.,” said Hansen. It also gives them a sense of comradery.
Zimmerman who volunteers for the group said, “They’re considered your family because they would do anything for you and you would do anything for them, to protect them.”
It is that feeling of family that inspired the former president to create the book.
“I want to share what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen, and to call attention to those programs that work,” said President Bush.
The former president painted 98 veterans . Hansen said, he doesn’t know how he made it in, but Zimmerman jokes, “I like to think it’s because I’m cute,”
After meeting president Bush, Zimmerman said he told her he doesn’t miss being president but he misses saluting the soldiers.
“I think this is his way of saluting the soldiers and saying thank you for serving.,” said Zimmerman.