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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

U.S. Navy veteran David Miller proudly served his country for 10 years before a degenerative neurological condition turned life upside down for him and his family.

Jay Leno and Jenna Bush Hager are hoping a special gift that was once used by the late President George H.W. Bush, a Navy veteran himself, can help make life a little easier for a fellow sailor.

Jenna became emotional as she joined the former "Tonight Show" host to surprise Miller, 31, along with his wife, Misa, and their daughter, Rachel, 7, outside Rockefeller Plaza on TODAY Thursday.

They rolled up in a former Secret Service van modified to meet Miller's needs that had previously been used by Jenna's beloved "Gampy" in the later years of his life.

"I hope you and your family have as many happy memories in this van as my family did,'' she said.

Jenna also presented Miller and his family with a personalized letter from her father, former President George W. Bush, recognizing Miller for his service and noting that George H.W. Bush would've been honored to donate the vehicle.

The 41st president, who died at 94 in November, was a decorated Navy pilot in World War II.

Jenna Bush Hager got emotional when surprising Navy veteran David Miller and his family with a modified van that once transported her grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush. Nathan Congleton / TODAY

"Forty-one would be proud to know that a fellow sailor will take his seat in the van, and I know he would join me in thanking you for your contributions to our country," George W. Bush wrote in his letter to Miller.

Miller was particularly touched by the surprise because he is a huge admirer of the 41st and 43rd presidents.

"George Bush Sr.?" Miller said. "Oh, I love that man."

"One of the greatest presidents of all time," he added later.

Jenna then gave Miller an extra thrill after the cameras were turned off when she called her father on FaceTime so the veteran and the former president could have a heartwarming exchange directly.

Jenna set up a heartwarming exchange between the Navy veteran and the 43rd president when she called her father on FaceTime. TODAY
Miller expressed his appreciation for George W. and George H.W. Bush, saying they were two of his favorite presidents. TODAY

Miller served in the Navy from 2007-2017 after enlisting right out of high school. He was working as an aviation ordnance tech on the USS George Washington off the coast of Japan when he met Misa, whom he married in 2011.

Their life took a dramatic turn in 2017 when Miller was deployed on the USS Nimitz in the Middle East and suffered a seizure. He was medevaced to a hospital in Bahrain, where he was diagnosed with a rare disorder called cerebellar atrophy and ataxia, which affects movement and speech.

"I was scared so bad because I couldn't walk,'' Miller said. "I thought I was paralyzed. I just thought, 'Man, how am I going to support my wife and child now?'''

Jenna and Jay Leno surprised Miller with a former Secret Service van that used to transport the 41st president. Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Miller's motor skills are diminished and his speech is slurred as a result of the condition, which has no cure.

"At least I gave my all when I was able-bodied,'' he said. "That's all I can say. I just tried my best."

The surprise on Thursday was able to come together thanks to BraunAbility, a company that manufactures wheelchair-accessible vans. The company owned the former Secret Service vehicle and reached out to Leno to help donate it through its Drive for Inclusion initiative.

"The bad news is it's a used car,'' Leno joked to Miller. "The good news is it was owned by a Navy hero. And that hero was President George (H.W.) Bush."

The van will help Miller as he gets settled in Jacksonville, Florida, where he just moved a month ago after having previously been in Japan. This is the first time the family has all lived together.

"I'm doing better with my family, and the support of the wounded warriors and VA,'' Miller said.