On Wednesday, February 29, the President and the First Lady hosted 87 veterans of the Iraq War at the White House. Four IAVA member veterans were lucky enough to be invited to this historical event, including Membership Director Jason Hansman, local leader Angela Peacock, IAVA member MSgt Shane Lucaillade and the 2011 recipient of the IAVA Veterans Leadership Award, Cpl. Aaron Mankin.
"Receiving the official White House invitation in the mail was surreal. I feel immensely honored to stand for my fellow Airmen at this event. It is no simple task to represent the caliber of men and women who I served alongside in Iraq. They are the ones I will be thinking of that night."
-MSgt Shane Lacaillade
Hansman spoke enthusiastically about the dinner and what it meant to the service members and veterans in attendance. "It was humbling to see the President, Vice President and top military leadership spread out around the room eating with the 'everyday' soldier," he said. Angela Peacock, a former Army sergeant and IAVA's local leader for the St. Louis Welcome Home our Heroes parade, echoed Hansman's sentiment. “I felt a lot of closure,” she said.
Coming off the St. Louis Welcome Home our Heroes parade--an event which Peacock spearheaded for IAVA--media attention has swiveled to other cities that have seized the initiative and begun to plan events to celebrate veterans of the Iraq War. The next parade is in Richmond, VA on May 19--Armed Forces Day.
IAVA continues to advocate a National Day of Action that celebrates all veterans of the Iraq War, not just a select few. Hansman highlighted that now is the time to capture public goodwill. "We're in a unique moment in time where the American public is focused on the war in Iraq... and we don't know how much longer we'll have the attention.”
In the Press:
- WBUR Boston: Honoring Iraq Vets
- Associated Press: With dinner for a few, Obama honors all Iraq vets
- FOX Radio: Jason Hansman comments on White House dinner
- CBS Radio: IAVA's push for a National Day of Action and the White House dinner
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