Vallecitan meets president



Julie Hollars had it all planned out.

When President George W. Bush descended the ladder well into the galley of the USS Lincoln, she and two of her shipmates would snap to attention.

Hollars would introduce herself and welcome the commander in chief to the ship. It would be cordial, but professional. The president would stand about 4 feet away.

But that's not what happened.

"He walked right in and grabbed us by the shoulders," said Hollars, 33, a Vallecito native who served on the USS Lincoln during Operation Iraqi Freedom. "He gave us armhugs and was saying how happy he was to be there."

Hollars, one of eight aircraft "troubleshooters" on her carrier, was one of several Calaveras County residents who served in the military during the recent war.

Earlier this year, she was honored as the top sailor of her squad and of her carrier airwing. On Feb. 14, she was flown to San Diego from the Persian Gulf for four days and honored as one of the top five sailors of the Pacific Coast.

And then she met the president.

"I've had the most incredible year, career wise, and I have the most incredible family," Hollars said.

"But when I was standing there looking at him, knowing he's the most powerful man in the world. What can compare to that?"

A busy day

Hollars said that after Bush landed on the carrier, he spent time shaking hands with the flight deck crew before disappearing with his entourage below deck.

He was back upstairs about half an hour later, though, shaking more hands as planes took off for home.

Later on after Bush ran on the treadmill for a while, Hollars said he gave a televised speech from the flight deck. When he went below deck again, Hollars met him.

But that wasn't her last encounter with Bush.

At a dinner with 200 shipmates and no media, Hollars sat next to him. They talked about everything, she said, from global affairs to national politics. Bush also talked candidly about his daily schedule and his family.

The Union Democrat
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