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President greeted warmly at airport

August 18, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Air Force One, with President Bush aboard, made a smooth landing at 5:35 p.m. at the 167th Airlift Wing at Eastern Regional Airport in Martinsburg.

The first off the plane, Bush greeted the crowd of military representatives from the Air National Guard base and reporters.

Among those greeting the president were Marge Ruth and her sister, Pat Novak, both of Kearneysville, W.Va.

Ruth, a volunteer with Literacy Volunteers of the Eastern Panhandle, welcomed the president with a hug and had a brief conversation with Bush on the runway before he headed over to the Republican rally at Hedgesville High School.

The organization's executive director, Theresa Hess, said Ruth was given an opportunity to meet the president because of her many outstanding contributions made during her eight years of service.

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"She is 100 percent dedicated," Hess said.

Ruth left school after the eighth-grade and earned her GED when she was in her late 50s, according to a release from the White House. In addition to tutoring, Ruth volunteers 20 hours a week as a mentor in Jefferson County, W.Va.

Since March 2002, President Bush has met with more than 300 literacy volunteers around the country, the release said.

Surrounded by Secret Service agents, Bush spent a few minutes greeting about 200 family members of the 167th Airlift Wing unit before he flew out of the area.

"The turnout was outstanding, several people here have been deployed multiple times in the war against terrorism," 1st Lt. Andrew Schmidt said.

Bush even posed for a photograph holding 17-month-old Aiden Turney of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"I was trembling. I was so nervous, what an honor," said Carrie Turney, Aiden's mother. "He's such a powerful man, I really stand behind him."

Several people at the airport said the president's visit was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a moment in history. Others described the president as down-to-earth and easy going.

"It didn't feel like the president, it felt very comfortable," said Misti Brigman of Martinsburg.

Schmidt said more than two dozen local media were on hand to cover the president. The presidential motorcade consisted of nearly 20 different vehicles.

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