Thursday, February 20, 2014

Opportunity of a lifetime

Journalist photo
In December, I went to Hawaii for 3 weeks to visit my good friend, Cate before she left Hawaii for new adventures.  She was an officer in the US Air Force and part of her job was to help with Presidential arrivals in many locations.  Cate had the opportunity to work one last Presidential arrival before leaving the Air Force.  Lucky for me, the First Family arrived in Hawaii the day after I did, so I was able to go and watch the arrival.  It was incredibly surreal!

We arrived about 3 hours before arrival and Cate got me in before most of the other viewers, so I got a front row spot.  I was able to see Air Force One land and park not far in front of where we were standing.  I was able to watch Cate marshall the jet to its parking spot - just amazing!  

Air Force One
Within moments of parking, the First Family exited the plane.  After talking to some high up military officers, the President and First Lady came over to greet those of us who were there to watch.
Journalist photo
Journalist photo
The First Lady came down the line first and hugged everyone including me.  She thanked me for my service as I was standing in a sea of military members in uniform.  I wished her a Merry Christmas and she moved on.  I felt bad at first that she thanked me for my service, when I'm not in the military.  When I talked about it later with Cate - she reminded me that being a friend of a military member is a sacrifice at times too.  Which is true - several times our plans have been altered due to last minute military obligations.  It still felt a bit funny - especially as a current expat!
Then I was able to shake President Obama's hand.  I have absolutely no idea what I said to him, as it was just so surreal.  It was all over in moments!  To me, both the President and First Lady seemed like they did on tv - kind and warm people.  In the end, they are just people like everyone else.  I was also amazed at how tall they are!  Mrs. Obama was wearing heels so I had to practically jump up to hug her!  President Obama's smile just amazed me.  He was standing right in front of me, shaking my hand smiling just like in this picture.  A moment I won't soon forget...

Just after meeting the Obamas, I watched them greet the others in the group.
I got a few pictures, but it was hard as it was so dark.  Thankfully, one of the journalists captured these pictures I was able to download.  A few days later, the photo of me shaking the President's hand (above) made it on to the Air Force Base website.  :)

Cate and I in front of Air Force One 
A special thank you to Cate for this incredible experience.  I had heard tales of her adventures working Presidential arrivals and departures around the world, but being able to see it all first hand was beyond special!

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