WASHINGTON, D.C. — Brandi and Kevin Long had the opportunity to celebrate the 4th of July at the White House with fellow military families. Brandi Long, a native of Gratis, recalled, it is an experience she will never forget.
Every year, the White House hosts a picnic for military families, diplomats, and other officials. This year, the picnic was specifically for military families. It was President Thomas Jefferson who first established the traditions of a Fourth of July celebration at the White House. President Jefferson opened the house and greeted the people along with diplomats, civil and military officers, and Cherokee chiefs. Since that time, the festivities have evolved to include parades, fireworks, and live music.
This year’s festivities featured music from American Idol Alumni Jax and Jonny Brenna, country singer Sara Evans, and classical pianist Lola Astanova. According to Brandi Long, the event was “intimate,” with only 400 tickets sold.
“My husband joined the army almost six years ago as an infantry soldier,” Long explained. “We were stationed at Fort Campbell for awhile, and then we got stationed with The Old Guard at Fort Myer, Virginia, which does the funerals and everything for Arlington National Cemetery.
“From that, he got chosen to work for the Secretary of Defense as a tour guide for the Pentagon. He works every day doing tours for the Pentagon. Every year, the Secretary of Defense gets tickets for the Fourth of July. This year they decided to do all military family. They wanted the tour guides to have access to the tickets, and we got two.”
She added, it was 97 degrees outside and very hot, but an interesting experience. They had barbecue, entertainment, and got to meet Vice-President Mike Pence. President Donald Trump gave his speech on his balcony, before stepping out to shake hands with several families.
“It was very intimate. They had it nicely decorated. It was a very neat experience. We were maybe not even 40 or 50 yards from the actual White House,” Long said. “It meant a lot to us. He’s done everything, from lying in the desert in Afghanistan to showing his respects at Arlington. Now, we’re at one of the most exclusive parties in America being thanked by the President for his service.
“I am never going to forget being 10 feet away from President Trump, because he came down to shake hands. Being that close to an American President, I feel like was such an honor. Not a lot of people are ever that close to one. That is something I am always going to remember and pass on for generations.
“It felt so surreal to be there. Now that it has been passed, it feels like a dream. It was so surreal to be there and experience that. It is a very big honor to be able to go to the White House for a tour, but to be there for an event was more than I could ever dream for.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH