Assemblies of God Chaplain Judy T. Malana appeared multiple times on national television last week, leading the military funeral processionals for former President George Herbert Walker Bush.
On Dec. 3, Malana, a Navy captain, escorted the flag-draped coffin of the 41st president on Air Force One from Texas to Washington, D.C. Bush died at his home in Houston on Nov. 30 at the age of 94. Dignitaries and other visitors paid their respects at the U.S. Capitol rotunda until the body was transferred to Washington National Cathedral for a state funeral Dec. 5. All four living ex-presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — plus President Donald Trump attended the ceremony.
A military chaplain’s presence is required during the duration of events. Malana, as the chaplain escort, participated in all military ceremonies and provided a pastoral presence and support to the family, friends, and staff members traveling with the official party. The AG chaplain also accompanied the coffin in various motorcades.
Malana, 51, accompanied the remains on the flight back to Houston for a service Dec. 6 and boarded a special train that transported the former president to his final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas. During the trips on Air Force One, Malana sat next to the casket.
“This was symbolic, as it conveyed to the traveling party that God’s presence was with President George H.W. Bush’s body until his committal and internment,” Malana tells AG News.
Malana, endorsed with U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Ministries, is a naval chaplain pioneer. A quarter century ago, she became the first female chaplain assigned to any guided-missile cruiser, at the time the last male bastion in the surface fleet. Malana, the first woman Navy chaplain in the Assemblies of God, remains the highest-ranking female naval chaplain representing the Fellowship.
Scott McChrystal, military representative/endorser for the AG, says Malana knew that state funeral duty would be part of her assignment when she moved into the role of regional Naval District Chaplain based in Washington, D.C. in July. Because Bush was a World War II Navy veteran, Malana became the assigned Navy chaplain.
“She performed honorably in a high-stress situation,” McChrystal says. “She made the Chaplain Corps and Chaplaincy Ministries proud.”
Malana says the turnout for the ceremonies gave her a glimpse of how much the American public admired Bush.
“I will never forget the thousands of Houstonians who lined the streets and highways to pay tribute as the motorcades passed and the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets that lined the road to the Bush Presidential Library,” Malana says.
The most unforgettable part of the week for Malana involved providing pastoral support to friends and family she accompanied, including former President George W. Bush.
“A memory that I will forever hold in my heart was the opportunity to privately minister to those who were grieving, including the former first family,” Malana says. “Those are sacred moments only the Lord could create.”
Although Bush died as the oldest retired president ever, Malana may repeat her duties later. The next oldest living ex-president — 94-year-old Jimmy Carter — also is a Navy veteran.