Bush: I Want Vets to Know That 'I Care About Them'

Thursday, 01 May 2014 06:57 PM

By Greg Richter

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Former President George W. Bush says that since he doesn't make many public statements since leaving office he feared America's war veterans might think he didn't care about them anymore.

Quelling that fear was a primary reason behind his annual bike ride with veterans, Bush told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview aired Thursday.

Bush invited Tapper to take part in the 62-mile mountain bike ride over three days near his Crawford, Texas ranch. It is the fourth year of the ride and the first since Bush had a stent implanted in his heart last August.

Bush said the small event, with about 16 wounded warriors from Afghanistan and Iraq, still gets a lot of attention because of social networking.

"This is a celebration honoring people who've sacrificed for the country," Bush said. "I want the vets to know I love them and care about them."

Some of the soldiers' injuries are visible, some are not, such as those with Post Traumatic Stress. Bush told Tapper that many suffering from PTS say biking has helped them to recover.

Bush is part of an effort to drop the "D" from PTSD, explaining that many doctors are now saying the issues faced by vets are an injury and not a disorder, as the "D" indicates.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs still uses the term PTSD.

Bush said that if someone says on a job application that he has PTSD an employer might not want to hire him or her because they have a "disorder." They will, however, hire someone with an injury, "because injuries are fixable."

Though the veterans were wounded in wars that Bush sent them into, the former commander-in-chief said most don't want sympathy.

"I am amazed by the number of people that walk up and say, 'Please don't feel sorry for me. I know you did the best you could do. I would do it again, Mr. President," he said.

Still, he said he can't help but feel sadness for those who will never be able to recover.

Story continues below video.



On other subjects:

Bush called the Veterans Administration a "well-intended bureaucracy," but added that reports of 40 veteranswho died awaiting care in Arizona are troubling.

As former owner of the Texas Ranger baseball franchise, he called recent racist comments by Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA's LA Clippers, "despicable."

Tapper asked about Bush's famous words about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush, in 2001, said he looked into Putin's eyes and got a sense of his soul. But Bush now says Putin has changed. He believed that happened when the price of oil increased and he no longer felt he needed the West's economic help.

Putin sees things as a zero-sum game, Bush said. But rather than an "I-win-you-lose" scenario, Bush said he, and he believes President Barack Obama, have tried to convince Putin that both the United States and Russia can win – to no avail.

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