There is no greater honor for the men and women of the United States military than to serve their nation. But being recognized for their service at a private event with their Commander-in-Chief is a rare and valued opportunity.
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Joseph Castro and Petty Officer 2nd Class Lawrence Benson, both maritime enforcement specialists, joined representatives of all five armed services for dinner at the White House last night.
Hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and attended by senior military leaders including Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp, the event was an expression of the nation’s gratitude to the more than one million Americans and their families who served and made personal sacrifices in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
“It was a great honor to stand there with my shipmates and represent the hard working men and women of the United States Coast Guard,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt.
Castro served a year in Manama, Bahrain, as part of Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia Middle East Training Team. Benson, a prior Army soldier, deployed to the Middle East three times between 2002 and 2005, earning the Bronze Star for Valor.
“We represent those who have made countless sacrifices and some who made the ultimate sacrifice to help keep our Nation free, like Petty Officer Nate Bruckenthal, who made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Leavitt. “I’m proud of all the members of our armed forces, I’m proud to be a Coast Guardsman, and I’m proud to be an American.”