President George W. Bush surprised veterans at a media preview of a new art exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Tuesday.
Bush is combining his love of painting with his work to help the nation's military veterans with his new book and exhibit, "Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors."
"I'm a little nervous about what they think of their paintings, but it is what it is," Bush told the media with a chuckle.
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While painting the portraits of wounded warriors, he's gotten to know them over the years since leaving office.
"One of the things that I think is so important about expressing yourself through paint is to, in my case, think about their stories. I know them all," he said.
Purple Heart Recipient Chief Warrant Officer James Williamson served in both the Air Force and the Army and is one of the many portraits hanging at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
"I was humbled to be one of these," Williams said. "And very realistic, I might add."
Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock was also on hand Tuesday, he served since 9/11 and the president has come to know his story personally.
"He made the tough decision that had to be made. I don't regret any of the decisions that I've made. I joined at a time knowing that I was going to see combat and I'm honored to have served under his presidency," said Yellock.
For those who can't make it to the exhibit the president's paintings along with in-depth stories of the veterans' perseverance after suffering visible and invisible wounds of battle are featured in a new book.
Bush appeared on the "Today" show Monday to talk about the book and introduced some of the wounded warriors profiled in the book.
On Veteran's Day, Bush posted a photo on Instagram of himself painting one of the 98 portraits.
The book came out Feb. 28, 2017, and includes an introduction by Bush and forewords by former first lady Laura Bush and by Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"This is a book about the men and women who have been tremendous national assets in the Armed Forces -- and who continue to be vital to the future success of our country," Bush writes in the introduction. "The greatest honor of the presidency was looking them in the eye and saluting them as their Commander in Chief. And I intend to support and salute them for the rest of my life."
Bush and several of the veterans profiled in the book joined Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie for Facebook Live chat about the book.
The book will be released in two editions: a $35 hardcover and a $250 "deluxe" volume, cloth-bound and signed by Bush. There is also a $30 audio CD read by President Bush.
Bush, who has become an avid painter since leaving the White House, is donating any net author proceeds to the George W. Bush Presidential Center and its Military Service Initiative, which helps post-Sept. 11 veterans and their families' transition to civilian life.
The paintings from "Portraits of Courage" will be on exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, from March 2 through early October.
According to our media partners at The Dallas Morning News, Bush will sign his new book next month at the Barnes & Noble on Northwest Highway in Dallas, but only for would-be buyers who already purchased a wrist band to secure a place in line.