Bryce Carnahan planned to go fishing with friends on the first day of December.
His platoon sergeant had a different mission for the 20-year-old U.S. Marine from Lake Stevens.
“I was woken up that Saturday morning with a knock on my door telling me I was going to Texas in an hour and a half,” said Lance Cpl. Carnahan, a member of the Color Guard stationed at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
What’s up with that?
“He explained to me that George Bush senior had passed away and I was doing the arrivals and departures down in Houston,” Carnahan said.
The 41st president died Friday, Nov. 30, at his Houston home. He was 94.
Carnahan packed his dress blues and service bravos in addition to his civilian uniform of flannel shirt, jeans and cowboy boots.
Instead of going fishing that Saturday, off he went on a C-130 transport plane, along with military that included another Marine from his unit.
On Sunday, Carnahan was up at 5 a.m. for 12 hours of practice at Ellington Field near Houston for Monday’s ceremony with George Herbert Walker Bush’s hearse and convoy.
The Marine was in the joint service honor guard leading the procession to Air Force One, which took the casket and family to Washington, D.C. Carnahan stayed in Texas, practicing for their return Dec. 5.
“We pretty much did the whole ceremony, but in reverse,” Carnahan said. “We brought him off the plane and put him back in the hearse.”
The next day were two more events, starting when the casket was placed on funeral train No. 4141 for the final journey to College Station. “There were hundreds and hundreds of people lined up along the tracks to see the train because it had a big glass wall on it where you could see the casket.”
The ceremonies in Texas attracted international media. Carnahan is the 6-foot-4 white-capped Marine holding a rifle and an unflinching pose. Like those unflappable British guards at Buckingham Palace.
Carnahan said at one event he faced the younger George Bush.
“I looked George Bush in the eyes while presenting the colors for his father,” Carnahan said. “It was an honor.”
Even so, he couldn’t show any emotion.
“I had to try to keep my bearing. I couldn’t break. I couldn’t smile.”
He was ready.
“We train and train to do that. Before I made the platoon I spent five months training in drill to keep bearing,” he said. “You had to do well to be accepted into the platoon. There were tryouts.”
Among the millions of people watching the Texas events was a large crowd of fans back in Snohomish County.
“All these photos I see he’s never smiling and I’m always like, why don’t you ever smile?” said his father, Dan Carnahan. “He says, ‘Dad, I’m not supposed to.’ ”
His mom, Jan Carnahan, said she was worried when her son joined the Marines, following in the footsteps of a cousin. She even went with him to the recruiting office.
That worry has been replaced by maternal pride. “I work at Boeing. I was proud to see Air Force One, the big 747, and to see my son standing in front of that,” she said.
His dad has his theories why Bryce was chosen for the Color Guard after infantry boot camp, where Carnahan earned an expert shot rating. “We used to sit out back and shoot BB guns for hours on end.”
Carnahan said his height and test scores might have factored into his station at the D.C. barracks, known as “8th & I,” the oldest active Marine post. Founded by President Thomas Jefferson, it has both ceremonial and security missions.
During his nearly 18 months there, Carnahan has been in ceremonies at the Pentagon and other places around D.C.
President Donald Trump visited his barracks in November for an event with mini pumpkin pies.
“We got to shake hands with him,” he said. “His hands were a lot bigger than I thought they’d be. He was really humble around us. I know he’s not known for it.”
He described Melania Trump as nice.
“The main thing that hit me was how soft-spoken she was. Being the First Lady you’d think she’d be more out there,” he said.
The pies were very good, he said. “And you could eat as many as you wanted. Some people had six or seven.”
In six months, Carnahan will return to infantry and hopes to get deployed.
Before that, he expects to get in some fishing.