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Terror War Veterans Step Out in Style at Ball in Their Honor

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2005 – With a glamour far removed from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, members from every military service stepped out in style at a ball created just for them by their commander in chief.

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Servicemembers and their guests arrive at the Jan. 20 Commander in Chief's Ball in Washington. The ball was part of President Bush's dedication of his second Inauguration Day to the men and women of the armed forces. Photo by Terri Lukach

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For 2,000 veterans of the war on terror and their spouses and dates, the first Commander in Chief's Ball was a major highlight of an inaugural President Bush dedicated to the service and sacrifice of America's armed forces, especially those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I am truly honored to have the opportunity to come here tonight," said Army Capt. Dexter Davis, who served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq and was part of the initial invasion force. "I was so surprised to get tickets, and I'm so happy to be here."

His evident excitement at being selected to attend one of the nine official presidential inaugural balls Jan. 20 was echoed by all who arrived, greeted as the heroes they are and ushered down a red carpet, and attended by media who clamored for their attention.

Unlike the other balls with high-priced tickets, this one was free for those who attended. Once inside, the war veterans and their guests were treated to Texas barbeque with all the trimmings and Texas-style hor d'oeuvres served by waiters in 10- gallon hats.

They took the honor seriously, arrayed in their best dress uniforms and ball gowns that rivaled those elsewhere in town.

Unlike the 2001 inaugural, where elegant black dresses seemed to be the favorite formal wear for women, the gowns at the Commander in Chief's Ball were as glittery as any at the Oscars. Red was a favorite color, followed by shimmery whites that echoed the first lady's. One splattered silver stars across yards and yards of flag-blue material.

Also unlike other balls, whose guests alighted from limousines, most servicemembers and their dates arrived by Metro, the city's subway system which detracted not a whit from their dignity and, in fact, only seemed to highlight their selfless service to the nation.

Army Maj. Richard Pratt, who served in Iraq for four months, spoke of his pride at having been part of the country's liberation. "I'm proud of what we are doing over there. I think it makes a big difference for the security of our nation, and for the security of the world.

"The losses are tragic," he said, noting that his best friend died in combat. But defending America from terrorism and bringing freedom to other lands, he said, "is an important mission, and the Middle East is an important place to start." Pratt also attended the 55th Inauguration's kick-off salute to the military at the MCI Center events arena here Jan. 18.

For the president, the inaugural festivities also began with the star-studded gala, "Saluting Those Who Serve," at the MCI Center, and ended at the Commander in Chief's Ball, where he took his turn on the dance floor.

Rather than the traditional dance with each other, however, the president and first lady Laura Bush separated to twirl around the floor with a military partner. One lucky servicemember the president was paired with was Capt. Misty Jena Posey, a Marine combat engineer from Camp Pendleton, Calif., who deployed to Kuwait, Jordan, and East Timor in 2002, and was in Iraq at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Posey is currently a student at the Expeditionary Warfare School.

"I guess (I was selected) because I don't have a date," she said. "The director of the school knows I like to dance, and that I'm a big fan of the president, so he put my name in." Posey said she was "flattered" and "excited" to be chosen.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAt most inaugural balls in Washington, limousines were the vehicle of choice for those attending. But the city's subway system proved to be more practical for servicemembers and their guests attending the Commander in Chief's Ball on Jan. 20. Photo by Terri Lukach  
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