OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ President Bush's visit to Oklahoma on Saturday was to be a homecoming for an Iraq War veteran who will ferry the president around the state during his brief stay.
Marine Maj. Bryan Simmons, who lives in Quantico, Va., with his family, will fly Marine One, a helicopter that will transport Bush from Vance Air Force Base in Enid, where Air Force One will land, to Stillwater for his commencement address at Oklahoma State University.
Marine One is the designation given to any Marine aircraft when the president is on board.
It's a big assignment for Simmons, 35, who has only been a co-pilot in the helicopter fleet that flies the president for about five months.
The job brings him close to his roots in Frederick and Oklahoma City, where he grew up.
``I'm still so new to all this now that it's still an awesome feeling,'' said Simmons, a 1994 University of Oklahoma graduate who spent part of his childhood in Frederick and Oklahoma City. ``The president is very much a respected man with us. We all like him a lot. So it's an extra bonus for me.''
Two years ago, Simmons was going through his second tour of duty in Iraq, participating in the major American offensive in Fallujah.
``There were dangers and there were times we encountered enemy fire,'' said Simmons, reluctant to discuss details of his war experience. ``But it wasn't as bad as how it's portrayed on TV. I felt real positive when I was over there.
``Then I came home and started watching the news. I got depressed.''
Simmons entered the military in 1995 after earning a political science degree at the University of Oklahoma. His father, Dennis Simmons, was a member of the U.S. Air Force.
Bryan Simmons chose a different path.
``I wanted to be a pilot,'' Simmons said. ``And I wanted to be a Marine. I guess I just liked the spirit and mentality of the Marines. It suited my personality.
``And it kind of gets in your blood.''
Bryan Simmons lives in Quantico with his wife, Alicia, and their two daughters, Taylor, 6, and Savannah, 3.