Thanksgiving Dinner at the White house.
26 November, 1970
After I was WIA on my last mission on 08 August, 1970, I was eventually medivaced to Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington D.C. (A story for another time.)
Along with excellent medical care, the hospital offered ‘field trips’ to convalescing soldiers. I was fortunate enough to get to go on several of these: A week-end trip to Atlantic City; A flight to Goldsboro, NC for a Veterans’ Day weekend parade and Pig Pickin’, invitation to a Congressional Christmas party and Thanksgiving Dinner at the White House among my adventures.
Like any military operation, there were ‘lists’ in the orderly room that one could sign up for. Usually this was on a first come first serve basis. If you got on the list and your Doc signed off, off you went. Can’t remember exactly (They were keeping me pretty drugged at the time.) how this one started, but not just anyone, even disabled, convalescing soldiers got into the Nixon White House. He wasn’t real popular with us.
Besides having a TS security clearance, I was the kind of soldier the army wanted to show off to the Commander in Chief. I got to go. When I loaded the small bus waiting for us, it already had some sailors on it from Bethesda Naval Medical Hospital. It wasn’t a big bus. One of those smaller school buses.
When we arrived at the White House gate, uniformed security guards meticulously checked their list against each of our military ID cards. I know it was done ‘meticulously’ because one of our number had apparently been left off the list. It was a young warrant officer - chopper pilot - crash and burn chopper pilot. He was obviously blind as his face looked a bit like melted wax and was strangely devoid of features. You know. Ears and stuff. Two uniformed guards removed him from the bus before we were allowed to proceed.
White House buffs will probably know more about were I was than I do. I seem to think we drove around to the left side of the White House where we disembarked and lined up to enter the building. We had quite a selection of gimps, cripples and amputees. As is my wont, I hung back to observe and joined near the end of the reception line.
Greeting us was, of course President Richard M. “I am not a crook” Nixon, his wife, Patricia, one of their lovely daughters and, very best of all, for me, Mamie Eisenhower. I had grown up with her husband winning WWII and the “I Like Ike” button was my first political campaign.
It was interesting. I don’t think the First Lady was prepared for the grotesque parade of cannon fodder. Tricky . . . I mean, the President was unfazed, but his wife was almost green. As you can see from the accompanying images, we were entertained by a Mommas and Papas type group, the Spurrlows (huh?).
After the entertainment, we moved to a nice dinning room where, as fortune would have it, I was seated at a table next to Mrs. Eisenhower. I asume I was my normal charming self. I also assume from the accompanying newspaper articles that I was slightly delirious. NO! Back then, we still treated our Commander in Chief with the respect due his office, no matter how we personally felt about the President’s policies. I would never have said a word in public against the man while I was in uniform. PERIOD!
An After War Story
Thanksgiving Dinner at the White House.