I always thought the President of the United States was someone I would only ever see on television. I equated it with meeting a famous actor, actress, singer, or other entertainment icons. Though it would be much more meaningful to meet the President, I knew the chances of it happening were slim to none.
On the evening of August 20th, 2017 that all changed. My husband, who had served as a pilot for presidential helicopter squadron HMX-1 for the past four years, was scheduled to fly President Trump to the White House lawn for one last time. My kids and I, along with my in-laws, stood in the viewing area of the White House anxiously awaiting his arrival.
The next moments were unreal. After the helicopter landed, President Trump walked out followed by my husband, the First Lady, and their son. At first, there was a bit of confusion about what was happening, then I quickly realized Trump and my husband were looking for us among the crowd of reporters and photographers. Our escort hurried us over to the barrier where the Secret Service member opened it up and let us through.
Suddenly, there we were on center stage at the White House with the First Family! Cameras were flashing as we shook hands and greeted President Trump, Melania, and Barron. Trump then asked us all to stand together for a family photo. He thanked my husband for his service and told me that my husband is a great man. “Yes, yes he is,” I replied.
A few seconds later, the First Family walked into the White House and my husband went back to the helicopter.
Once I came down from the high of the whole experience, I realized a few things I learned about meeting the President that make this a truly extraordinary occasion:
1. The President can pause his schedule for what he wants. I always thought the President’s schedule was strictly planned by the Secret Service for security purposes. But Trump, upon learning it was my husband’s last flight, knew what he was going to do and didn’t care if it was against the norm. He spontaneously altered his timeline and graciously chose to honor a Marine and his family.
2. There will be press, and they will ask questions. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about the number of cameras on us when we were meeting the First Family, but even more nerve-wracking was afterward when I was approached by a reporter and asked about what just happened. They also asked for my husband’s name and rank and the names of all family members in attendance. I had to check with our escort to make sure I could tell them. Once given the okay, I realized our family would likely be in pictures and news reports all over the internet.
3. It’ll leave you longing for more. When it was all over, I found myself wishing the moment could’ve lasted longer. I wished I could’ve had more time to hold a conversation with Trump or the First Lady. I longed to get to know them on a personal level. I wondered if I had made a good impression and if I should have done anything differently. Life’s greatest moments always seem to leave us wanting more!
No matter who resides in the White House, the chance to meet the First Family is an honor. To be up close and personal with the leader of the free world and his family is the experience of a lifetime. For our family, the bar has been set very high with this one!