Three years ago, I received an invitation from the Office of the President to attend a Memorial Day breakfast at the White House, just before the formal ceremonies that would later take place that day with President Bush speaking at Arlington National Cemetery and placing a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The invitation stated that I could bring a guest, and I asked my son to go with me. Both of us had attended college on U.S. Army ROTC scholarships and spent time in the military. My wife and I had been to the White House before on a number of occasions, but this invitation seemed special - and it was.
As the appointed day drew near, we flew to Washington and checked into our hotel the night before, near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. The next morning, we got up early to make sure that we would not be late. Then, in eager anticipation, we walked on a beautiful sunny day to the White House, passing by the famous Willard Hotel where many Presidents had visited and stayed overnight, including Abraham Lincoln. We also passed by the Office of the U.S. Treasury.
When we arrived at the east gate to the White House, we took our places in line to go through security, and I saw one familiar face - the Republican National Committeeman from California, who I knew to have a military background. Suddenly, I realized why I had been invited to this marvelous occasion - because, like my friend from California, I was a member of the Republican National Committee who also had served in the military. How honored I felt on that morning to be an American and to be, with my son, among the special few to be invited to the White House and to formally honor those who had made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom in our county.
Once inside the White House, we passed by easily recognizable famous paintings of former Presidents and First Ladies; and the Marine Band, in dress uniform, was softly playing patriotic music. In the State Dining Room, we enjoyed making our selection for a light breakfast, laid out before us, cafeteria-style, by the White House chef. Then we enjoyed meeting Americans from all over this great land who were there to honor the fallen. Those attending included the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and many high ranking Admirals, Generals, elected officials, as well as a number of enlisted personnel.
We thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of meeting and visiting with several Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who proudly displayed their medals. Every one of those Medal of Honor recipients which we met, to a man, were soft-spoken, unassuming, and thoroughly authentic American heroes who symbolized what is great about America. We also met, there in the White House under the portraits of George and Martha Washington, a number of invitees dressed in motorcycle outfits; and we learned that they were the members of the famous motorcycle organization that attend funerals of our fallen soldiers across America. When necessary, with their motorcycles, they drown out the dissident voices of those who attend military funerals with the intent of making publicized statements of protest against a war that the United States is involved in.
The morning was complete when my son and I had our pictures taken with George and Laura Bush. Later, the President made a stirring address at Arlington in defense of liberty and the debt all Americans owe to their fallen soldiers. We, along with those that attended the breakfast, were filled with pride at the accomplishments of our defenders; and we were filled with the resolve that we indeed must remain steadfast in our defense of liberty, both at home and abroad.
I read that President Obama failed to attend the Memorial Day ceremony this year at Arlington National Cemetery; and he chose instead to go to Chicago, Illinois, to spend time with friends and family. He did mark the Memorial Holiday with remarks at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, located about an hour outside Chicago.
It is my hope that, in the future and throughout his presidency, the President will chose to once again attend the Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington, a place of tremendous symbolism. Erick Erickson of CNN stated that "going to Arlington to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns has . . . everything to do with . . . showing some basic respect to the men and women, alive and dead, who have actually kept us free." I agree, particularly during wartime.
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