Edward Little grad plays role in George H.W. Bush's funeral

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During the funeral service for George H.W. Bush on Wednesday, a U.S. Navy sailor could be seen solemnly carrying the presidential flag next to the flag-draped casket.

That sailor was Cristina “Crissy” Lewis, of Auburn, who had been training for five straight days to carry the flag as a member of the Navy’s Ceremonial Guard.

A 2012 graduate of Edward Little High School, Lewis said that as soon as she heard that the former president had died Friday night, she knew she and the Ceremonial Guard would be part of the procession at the National Cathedral.

She also knew it wouldn’t be easy.

“I think the flag is about 50 pounds or maybe a little bit more,” Lewis said Wednesday night. “I had to hold it with one arm the whole time. It’s so heavy, and it didn’t help that it was windy outside.”

Not that she was complaining. Lewis had been training for state funerals since August, around the time that Sen. John McCain passed away.

When word came down Friday night that Bush had died, she and other members of the guard began training at once. They trained all weekend and right up into Wednesday morning because everybody knew this was a historic event.

“They could have chosen anyone to do this, but they chose the Ceremonial Guard because they knew we’d get the job done,” Lewis said. “They knew we’d make it look perfect, and I think we did.”

Because Lewis stood so close to Bush’s casket throughout the ceremony, she was a regular fixture in news photographs and television footage. In her white gloves and U.S. Navy “Dixie cup” hat, she could be seen standing near the casket, holding the flag on its 10-foot pole as she’d been trained to do.

At a presidential funeral, there is no room for error.

“It was mentally exhausting,” Lewis said, “not just for me but for everyone. Everyone’s been on edge and kind of stressed out.”

The ceremonial guard did its duty, though, and without any hitches. Lewis’ mother, Karen Sweetser Lewis, said it was no surprise that her daughter handled her part with such poise and professionalism.

“She has always been self-disciplined. I knew she would do well because her personality is so suited for the military,” Sweetser Lewis said. “She’s always been the kind of person who always seems to find a way to get things done. She’s disciplined and reliable.”

In anticipation of the Bush funeral, Lewis’ day Wednesday started at 1:30 a.m. By nightfall, she was exhausted but said she had no regrets at all about participating in the ceremony.

“It was crazy just to be a part of something like that. It was definitely a great experience,” she said. “Now I’m going to go get some food and then I’m going to lay low for the rest of the night.”

Cristina Lewis, left, of Auburn, holds the presidential flag during the funeral service for George H.W. Bush on Wednesday. To the right are former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush. (Karen Sweetser Lewis photo)

Cristina Lewis of Auburn holds the presidential flag near the casket carrying former President George H.W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday. (Karen Sweetser Lewis photo)

Cristina Lewis of Auburn holds the presidential flag near the casket carrying former President George H.W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday. (Karen Sweetser Lewis photo)

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