From soldiers to students, thousands pay respects to George H.W. Bush inside Capitol Rotunda

There was a steady stream of well-wishers throughout the day inside the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Tuesday with thousands of Americans paying their respects to the late president George H.W. Bush on Tuesday.

This was the first and only full day the 41stU.S. President will lie in state.

For some visitors, it’s a chance to thank Bush for his service to the nation.

“I got to see him at Ft. Campbell, KY when he spoke with us,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Justin Elrod, who joined the Army shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Like Bush, Elrod is from Texas. Elroad has now served three commanders-in-chief, including the late president’s son, former President George W. Bush. Elrod is in Washington to fulfill what he calls a patriotic duty.

“It’s always been something that I’ve always thought would be a great opportunity if I ever got the chance to do it to pay respects to a former president,” Elrod said.

Bush died on Friday at age 94.

Some visitors Tuesday have vivid memories of the man many have come to know as “Bush 41.”

“I remember voting for President Bush in the (1980) primary,” said Linda Wilson, a Maryland school teacher who had previously scheduled a class field trip to Washington, D.C. prior to Bush’s death. “I really believed in him.”

The state viewing became an educational experience for Wilson’s fourth and fifth grade students, who are just starting to learn about Bush’s tenure in the White House.

“We’re excited,” said fourth-grader Katya Kukin. “As from the stories they tell, Bush was a very good resident.”

The public will continue to pay their respects inside the Capitol Rotunda, which remains open through Tuesday night until Wednesday morning until 7a.m. Wednesday. From there, Bush’s casket will be taken to the Washington National Cathedral for his state funeral.

Bush is just the 12th U.S. President to lie in state. His viewing, and subsequent state funeral, have become an opportunity for those who knew him and those still learning about him, to say goodbye.

“To me, he’s just a great American,” Elrod said.