By Brandan P. Mueller
Forwarded by Don Waterworth
As some of you may know, President Bush was in St. Louis recently and, while here, attended a dinner for Senator Jim Talent. By stroke of luck, a colleague of mine has a brother-in-law in the Talent campaign and they wanted an Operation Iraqi Freedom vet to participate in the dinner. My colleague submitted my name and I got the job.
My small role in the entire event was to say the Pledge of Allegiance after the invocation and right before singing the National Anthem. They had a short introduction, I walked up on the stage, said the Pledge and walked off to meet Amanda at our table in the back corner of the ballroom. This was the extent of my duties and I completed them before the President and Sen. Talent ever made it into the Ritz, much less the room we were in.
After this introductory phase, things slowed for about 15 minutes as we awaited the entry of President Bush and Sen. Talent. During this interim, we were informed that the President's schedule was tight and that we wouldn't be able to meet him. We were told, however, that there would be a chance to shake his hand after his speech when he exited the stage. There were barriers in from of the stage that he would walk along and meet and greet people as he made his way to the door.
When the President finally arrived, Sen. Talent gave the introduction and the President made a rousing and strong speech on the War on Terror and some other topics, though the War was the most animated and inspiring portion. He finished out his speech after about 20 minutes and exited as expected along the barriers in from of the stage.
By the time Amanda and I got from the back of the room to the front, we were four rows deep in people away from the President. I was resigned to catching a glimpse of his head, although Amanda insisted that I push forward. In fact, she was quite forceful in ordering me to the front , even though it was simply impossible short of physically elbowing and pushing people out of the way.
Our position along the barriers was almost at the end where the President would exit the room. He made his away along the barriers talking and shaking hands. Luckily, people were pretty good about clearing out after he walked past their position. The President walked past us, the crowd loosened up to our left and Amanda took the opportunity to use our unborn son in her womb to push me (and I mean literally PUSH me) to the barrier). The President was just to our right and talking with his head turned to the left but still shaking hands without looking to his right.
He paused at this time to take a picture and I was yelling “Mr. President, Mr. President”. Then again, so was everyone else so it was a rather unremarkable effort with poor results. Just then, though, his hand came within reach, I shook it and pulled very slightly and said, “Mr. President, you visited my family in Walter Reed.” When he heard this, he immediately turned his head our direction and came back down the line to us. When he came over, I repeated that he visited us on the one year anniversary of the war and then introduced Amanda. He looked at Amanda and her belly and said “Wow” and kind of held his hands out and shook her hand.
He then looked at me while shaking my hand and asked how I was doing. I told him, “Mr. President, the last time we met my right arm was broken and both legs were smashed up so I was unable to render the proper salute so I would like to do that now.” I came to attention and rendered the long overdue salute to my Commander-In-Chief. He returned the salute and smiled and again asked if my legs were okay and if I had a prosthetic. I told him that I didn't have a prosthetic and that I was doing fine.
At this point, in a great and surreal moment, he took both of his hands, planted them squarely on each side of my head. He then pulled my head forward to his forehead and, yes, head-butted me. He held our heads together for about 3 seconds which is a long time when your head is against the head of the leader of the free world. He then released me and shook my hand one last time. I offered a quick “Keep up the fight, Mr. President” as he was ushered out of the room by Secret Service.
As we walked away, Amanda asked me, “Did the President just head butt you?” I said that he had and that it was one of the greatest things ever to offer the salute 2 years overdue and then to get a head butt from the POTUS.
Amanda offered, “Yeah, I guess, but I also think it was a little weird. Is that like a man thing?” I told her that it was and that it was great to know that the President was all man and that he actually cares enough about service members that he would come back and spend time with us when he had everyone in the room trying to get to him. Amanda agreed but offered “That is nice but still a little weird.”
All in all, it was a great event. Say what you want about the President (and I am obviously a huge supporter) but the guy has impeccable character. Coming back to Amanda and I, spending an great deal of time with us, given the circumstances, and then giving the equivalent of a Presidential “man hug” to a ex-GI who got injured, says everything about him.
It was clear to me that the head butt came when he didn't know what more to ask about my injuries and just wanted to express his emotion. I love it. The guy gives me a man hug while wiping out terrorist animals across the globe. That is a renaissance man. That is my Commander in Chief.
Brandan P. Mueller
Husch & Eppenberger, LLC
190 Carondelet Plaza, Suite 600
St. Louis, MO 63105