Last Monday, I had the incredible honor of attending retired Command Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins’ Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. Without hesitation, I can honestly say that it was and will always be one of the highlights of my life.
The only drawback was that Lucy wasn’t able to go with me. She was planning on it, but Emily got sick and spiked a 105 degree temperature the morning we were to leave. Lucy did what military wives do. With very little fanfare, she took care of things at home while I went out and got all the glory. The next morning, Emily’s fever was broken. Chalk one up for mamma.
Although Lucy was unable to attend, I did spend a great deal of time with other friends during the trip. I think that it’s important to be able to share memories of such an important and monumental event with like-minded people. Having said that, neither Johnny nor Jay are as pretty as my wife.
Because of my lifelong stutter, I was hoping to meet Vice President Joe Biden, who is himself a stutterer. I wanted to give him an iStutter lapel that was created by one of my friends from the National Stuttering Association; however, the vice president was not in attendance.
Several of my friends were incredibly excited about drinking adult beverages in the White House. I can’t blame them. I was, too. We all took pictures and sent them back home. One father received major cool points from his two adult sons.
During the ceremony, I sat next to a two-star general from the United States Marine Corps. When I told him I was from Opelika, right next door to Auburn, he told me that he’d played football for Pat Dye at East Carolina.
The ceremony was absolutely incredible. President Barack Obama did a phenomenal job, and Bennie was as humble as ever.
After the ceremony, we had another drink or two. Some of us found it so entertaining that we could put our drinks on the furniture without using coasters. The food was amazing, too. I took a couple of napkins home as souvenirs and may or may not have taken a plate. I’m from Opelika. I can’t help it.
I was talking to a friend when Chuck Hagel, the Secretary of Defense, walked by all alone. I started trying to say his name, but, as usual, was stuck on the letter S. “S-S-S-Secretary Hagel,” I yelled just before he rounded the corner. He returned and was very kind. After talking for a few minutes, I gave him the iStutter lapel and asked if he could pass it on to the vice president. He asked for my card and said he would but, due to his position, I had my doubts.
I then told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, how I came to be in possession of a Christmas card sent to him from the commander of Ft. Drum. He found it humorous, but I’ll save that story for another day.
Monday night, I had a phone call from an unknown caller, so I didn’t answer it. If it was important, they’d leave a message. We were still celebrating.
In addition to my friend CSM Adkins, I met four other Medal of Honor recipients on this trip. Maj. Drew Dix, LTC Ron Ray, MSG Melvin Morris, and Col. Roger Donlon are all heroes of the highest regard, and it was truly an honor to meet each of them.
The next day, CSM Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the previous day, were inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon by Secretary Hagel. It was another incredible ceremony, and I was just honored to be there.
As I was driving back to Opelika on Wednesday morning, I decided to check the voicemail from the unknown caller. “Jody, this is Joe Biden, Vice President Biden,” he said. I almost had a wreck. I don’t care where one stands politically, it should always be an honor to receive a call from someone of his stature. He left a really nice voicemail and asked me to call him back. I did, but he wasn’t there at the time. His secretary said he’d return my call. I had my doubts.
On Monday of this week, he called me back. We had a great 18-minute conversation pertaining mostly to stuttering and service. Thankfully, he didn’t ask me about the plate.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.