CRAWFORD, Texas (KWTX) While former President George W. Bush traversed the trails at his ranch outside of Crawford with dozens of wounded warriors during his annual W100 bike ride, former first lady Laura Bush met casually over coffee with those who care for the injured troops.
“I felt like a caregiver really when we lived in the White House when George was commander-in-chief,” Mrs. Bush said in an exclusive interview with KWTX.
“I'm also so aware of what the spouses of the military men and women who have been deployed over the last number of years go through and that burden of worry that they have.”
It was the third “Caregiver Coffee” hosted by Mrs. Bush at a warrior event, but the first at the couple’s Central Texas ranch, which she said made the event even more special.
“We have all these mountain bike trails that have been built over the years and have them here at our own home on the ranch and especially now when the ranch looks so pretty when everything is blooming. And our prairie restoration that we've started, it looks so great.”
Mrs. Bush welcomed the spouses and caregivers by telling them not a day passed in the White House they weren’t on the minds of her and her husband.
“I knew he was always worried,” Mrs. Bush said.
“The hardest decision any president makes is to put men and women in harm’s way. That was something that I knew he worried about the whole time we lived there and still does. I mean that's why he wants to still do these events with our warriors. “
Mrs. Bush then turned the talk over to Attitudes and Attire, a Dallas nonprofit which focuses on the unique needs, particularly of women related to the military.
The caregivers then spent time talking openly about the struggles they face day-to-day while helping care for wounded veterans.
Mrs. Bush said being together is a big part of the weekend.
“We know peer-to-peer counseling is what works best for people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress so it's one of the great things about this, is the men and women get to be together and talk to each other,” she said.
Marlene Urena, a military spouse and caregiver, was among those at the coffee.
Her husband was in the military for 25 years.
“We’ve had a really, really good run and then we've had to deal with some issues, but we've overcome and we're here.”
After coming back from a difficult deployment to Iraq in 2004 and 2005 her husband, Roque, began suffering from PTSD, an invisible injury that led to his invitation to the wounded warrior ride.
Marlene said the Bushes, whom she and her husband met in 2013, have had a large impact on their healing.
“(Mrs. Bush) has been and has had a significant impact on me. They both have,” Marlene said.
“To know that she's also supporting us the caregivers and the spouses with the love and interest she has taken in us, is what makes us able to be here.”
Mrs. Bush says she hopes the wounded veterans, their spouses and caregivers, left Central Texas with an understanding of how much she and her husband appreciate their sacrifice.
“I talked about this with our caregivers, but post 9/11 veterans who didn't have a draft chose to sign up in the military after Sept. 11. Millions of people did. And I think that says something about our both country and how patriotic men and women in the United States are and how fortunate we are to have this generation,” she said.