On Monday, January 12th at 1:15 pm, I met with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. The meeting was approximately 15 minutes long, and upon my departure the President gave me a small gift; it was a tie clip that bears the presidential seal and the President’s signature. This is the President’s last week in office before President-Elect Barak Obama takes power on the 20th.
I was invited to the White House for my leadership role in the Department of Defense’s initiative to support the troops through America Supports You. For the last few years I have been a Military Liaison Leader for Project Prayer Flag. This is a Home Front support group that started, and continues today, to send a small American flag and a prayer, to troops fighting our wars. Over 500,000 flags have been sent since its conception just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The organization was the brain child of by my former United States Air Marshal partner Shawn Black. Since then the program has expanded to include sending pre-paid calling cards and creature comforts to the troops.
A week and a half ago I received a phone from Black. He told me that he wanted his key people to go with him to the White House, and that I was on this list. He told me that he was appreciative of my help over the years with Project Prayer Flag and for contributing military material to the war effort in Iraq. In December 2008 I had sent enough tactical knives, the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Blade manufactured by Boker, to supply Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. This unit currently guards and patrols the Iraqi-Syrian border to keep foreign terrorists and weapons smugglers out of Iraq. Receiving word back from the area of operations Platoon Sergeant Joseph B. Apps said, “Thank you so much. This could not have happened without your effort.” Another consideration in my going to the White House was the fact that I had been training Army National Guard troops in a variety of combat skills for the past three years as an instructor for the California State Military Reserve, 40th Infantry Division (Support) Battalion, Provost Marshal Office (Military Police) at the Joint Forces Training Based Los Alamitos in the state of California. For all of these reasons the White House concurred with Black’s decision to include me as a representative, and meet the President.
Although short notice, fortunately for me, I was in between teaching cycles. I had finished my New York City Level 1 seminar in December, and my Level 1 seminar was a week and a half away in Vancouver, Canada.
I arrived in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, January 7th so I could acclimate myself to the cold weather and the time zone; a three hour difference than that of Los Angeles. I already knew the city fairly well from having trained the U.S. Marshals Service Washington, D.C. Office and the Capitol Police in the past, not to mention my several missions there as a United States Federal Air Marshal. It was a good opportunity for me to continue my research on human conflict. Every time I am in a historical place, or there is a relevant museum, I research and photograph anything related to human conflict. Of course, one of the best places for this is the Smithsonian Institute which runs several of the top museums in the country.
The first museum I went to was the National Museum of the American Indian closest to the Capitol Building. This was a fantastic museum filled with Native American weapons as well as those used by their enemies: Spanish, Mexican, and American weapons.
I then spent a few hours at the American History Museum across the Mall. One of the displays that most interest me was the artifacts and photographs of the early days of the United States Secret Service. Although I have never trained at one of their field offices I have had the Secret Service send agents to some of my courses in the past.
I was also impressed by the vast display on America’s wars: from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism. It is a good reminder of the blood that has been shed and the sacrifices made by many for our country’s freedoms.
After the museums I made some of the usual stop offs: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial.
On Saturday, January 10, 2009, was the opening of the 111th Congress of the United States. Although I was just down the street from the session, I watched it from my hotel room. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, California’s 8th District, ended her speech by stating, “May God continue to bless America.”
On Monday morning I prepared for my meeting with the President and made sure that I had no restricted items on me that the Secret Service had warned against. Fortunately, I was allowed a camera, but not in the West Wing of the White House. A couple of hours before going to the White House President George Bush gave his final face-off with the Press, as the President called it, “…the ultimate exit interview.”
After going through the security clearing area with the Secret Service Uniform Division us Home Front representatives where escorted into the Roosevelt Room. This is where dignitaries are taken prior to meeting with the President. This room is also where the President holds morning meetings. Along the back wall, behind the President’s chair are the flags of the Armed Forces with their war ribbons steaming down from the top of each staff. After about 20 minutes in this historic room we were escorted into the Oval Office where President George W. Bush, my Commander-In-Chief, greeted us near the door. I was the only military representative in the group, and since I was reporting to my Commander-In-Chief, I stopped and saluted him. He returned my salute, and then shook my hand and said to me, “Good to meet you.” I replied, “Good to meet you Mr. President.”
Shawn Black explained the purpose and scope of Project Prayer Flag organization and presented the President with the 500,000th American Flag and a written prayer in an elegant picture frame.
Before discussing military matters and politics the President said, “Well, you’re here; the Oval Office” giving his signature chuckle. “Let me show you some of the things in the room.” and then he proceeded to show us some of the items he treasured most. I stood by his desk as he revealed to us that the First Lady, Laura Bush, designed the rug that fills up the entire middle of the office. It was a beautiful rug with the American bald eagle in the center with rays of golden light radiating to the edges. He also showed us a painting depicting the Texas landscape that was directly behind me.
After making us all feel very welcomed, and talking about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the President said, “I really, really appreciate the military. They have made many sacrifices. I like to meet with the families. I don’t have to do it. I want to do it, especially the families of the fallen and Home Front groups like you. Because of support groups like yours this was not like Vietnam.” Of course, he was referring to the public’s mistreatment and outright disrespect of our war veterans returning home from the war during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
After our discussion, which I found very insightful and informative, the President said to me, “Come on, let’s take a picture Wagner” with a big smile.
After a few more minutes of discussing politics the President thanked us for meeting with him we prayed together for him and for the future of the nation. It was a touching moment for me, and all in the room. Then the Assistant Director of the Office of Public Liaison came for us and gave us a private tour of the White House.
After we left the White House we were able to see the construction of the stage in front of the White House which will be the termination point for the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States Barak Obama; my soon-to-be new Commander In Chief.
The next day, thanks to Congressman John Campbell of California’s 48th District, we were allowed entrance into the House of Representatives in the Capitol Building while it was in session. On the outside of the building a lot of work was being done for the Inauguration. Thousands of chairs were set up between the steps of the Capitol Building and the U.S. Grant memorial, and loud speakers were being set up along the length of The Mall. At the Lincoln Memorial another stage was being built on the steps of the memorial.
After our visit to the Capitol Building a small group of us went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and to see the changing of the guard. We also went to pay our respects to our fallen President John F. Kennedy; he was the President at the time of my birth and assassinated only a few months later. He lays in this sacred cemetery for America’s warriors because he was a commander of a patrol boat, PT 109, during World War II.
My Washington, D.C. trip was another milestone in my life, and it was an honor to meet the President of the United States in the Oval Office representing the California State Military Reserve as an American soldier and being recognized by the White House for my small effort in winning America’s wars.
Police Writers Internet Radio Interview Jim Wagner
On January 9, 2009 at midnight, 2100 hours Pacific Time, while I was in Washington, D.C. I was interviewed by Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, Los Angeles Police Department (retired), for Police Writers Internet Radio show called The Watering Hole (the name is slang for where police officers go off-duty to talk about work and life). This was the second time that I have been a guest on the show.
The title of my interview was Citizen Survival of Terrorist Attacks. To listen to this interview just CLICK HERE and go down the list to 1-9-09 and click on Click to Listen.
Raymond has asked me to be on his show again, which I have accepted, for a very specific topic which I will keep secret until a date is announced.
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