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VIDEO: Disabled Navy vet receives Bush Sr.’s Secret Service van as surprise gift on national television

The late Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush sits on the sidelines before a game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders where he served as honorary team captain for the Texans on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston. (George Bridges/MCT)
April 26, 2019

A disabled U.S. Navy veteran received a one-of-a-kind gift live on the Today Show this week.

U.S. Navy veteran David Miller, 31, whose career ended after 10 years when he suddenly developed a rare neurological disorder, received a vehicle formerly used by fellow Navy veteran and former president George H.W. Bush.

Watch the clip below:

The gift was a former Secret Service van used by the late Bush Sr., which was then renovated with accessibility options to accommodate Miller’s impairments. It was presented to him by Jay Leno and Bush’s granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager

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“The bad news is it’s a used car,” Leno joked to Miller. “The good news is it was owned by a Navy hero. And that hero was President George [H.W.] Bush.”

“George Bush Sr.?” Miller asked once he learned who formerly used the vehicle. “Oh, I love that man.”

“That man was a great man. One of the greatest presidents of all time,” he added later.

Bush Hager was visibly emotional as she said she rode in the same vehicle frequently throughout her childhood. “I hope you and your family have as many happy memories in this van as my family did,” she added.

She also presented Miller with a letter from her father, former President George W. Bush, which expressed his gratitude for Miller, and satisfaction for his receipt of the van.

“Forty-one would be proud to know that a fellow sailor will take his seat in the van, and I know he would join me in thanking you for your contributions to our country,” George W. Bush wrote in his letter to Miller.

Miller enlisted in the Navy after graduating high school. He worked on the USS George Washington as an aviation ordnance tech near Japan, then later on the USS Nimitz in the Middle East.

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In 2017, he had a seizure and was transported off the carrier to a hospital in Bahrain. Doctors diagnosed him with the rare condition cerebellar atrophy and ataxia, a degenerative neurological disorder that impairs movement and speech.

“I was scared so bad because I couldn’t walk,” Miller said. “I thought I was paralyzed. I just thought, ‘Man, how am I going to support my wife and child now?”’

There is no cure for Miller’s disorder, and he has been learning how to live with his new disability, something he has done with the help of Wounded Warriors and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“At least I gave my all when I was able-bodied,” he said. “That’s all I can say. I just tried my best.”

After the segment ended, Hager Bush then facilitated a video call between her father and Miller where he got to thank Miller directly.