Robert Lehmiller isn't really the hugging type.
But when President Bush opened his arms to the father of fallen soldier Michael Lehmiller, the Clearfield man didn't feel he had much of a choice.
Lehmiller said the embrace he received from the president was "warm and sincere."
"It was unexpected and it was absolutely wonderful," Lehmiller said. "It felt as if our loss was truly heartfelt to him."
Several "Gold Star" family members who met Bush while the president was in Salt Lake City this week were similarly impressed with the president's compassion. Bush may be a hard-talking Texan when he's playing the role of commander in chief, but in the presence of the families of those who have died in the wars he has directed, the president exudes something altogether different, the families say.
As a rule, the Bush administration doesn't comment on meetings the president has with families of the fallen. And although Bush hasn't attended any funerals for his war dead, he has not been completely successful at hiding his personal grief.
When Bush spoke in Salt Lake City on Thursday, most of those in attendance were veterans and members of the American Legion. But the front row of seats was filled with family members of fallen soldiers and Marines.
Among those in attendance were Amy and Tony Galvez, who the day before had laid their Marine son to rest at the Utah State Veterans Cemetery.
Bush's voice cracked slightly when he spoke about Adam Galvez and he appeared to wipe a tear from his eye as the audience stood to applaud the Galvez parents.
As the president was shaking hands after his speech, the Galvez family was swept away to a backstage room. Minutes later, Bush appeared at the door.
"He walked right in and gave us all a big hug," Amy Galvez said.
The grieving mother said Bush made her feel instantly comfortable.
"Under any other circumstances, I would have been very nervous," she said. "But he seemed so sincere and so genuine. He expressed his sympathy and I really think he felt deep sadness."
Galvez asked the president not to allow her son's death to be for naught. "He assured me that wouldn't happen," she said.
She said Bush also spoke with Adam's siblings, Sarah and Travis, inquiring about their schools and interests. But mostly, Galvez said, Bush tried to let them know he was aware of their sacrifice.
"What I got from him is that the decisions he makes he takes very seriously, knowing how it affects people and knowing that American lives are going to be lost," she said.
Carol Thomas Young, whose son Brandon was killed in Baghdad last year, said her brief encounter with Bush, as the president swept into the audience after his Salt Palace speech on Thursday, was "extremely meaningful."
The president was being pulled in all different directions, she said, "but he stayed there with us for several minutes and didn't walk away until we had been given the time we needed."
In those moments, Colleen Parkin placed her son's dog tags in the president's hand.
"I just want you to know that he served proudly under your command," Parkin told the president of her son, Matthew Smith, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq last year.
"Of course, he doesn't really know how we feel, he couldn't," Parkin said. "But when you're with him, you feel that he does care."