By MCC(SW/AW) Scott Boyle, 25th NCR Public Affairs
A Seabee from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202 is among 78 service members invited to attend a White House dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama, Feb. 29. The event is being held to express the nation’s gratitude and recognize the significant contributions of the men and women in uniform who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation New Dawn, as well as the families who supported them.
Chief Steelworker (SCW) Bradley A. VanHorn, CBMU 202, Detachment Washington D.C., is the only Seabee attending the event. The 13-year Navy veteran served two tours in Iraq, one with the Multi-National Security Transition Command and one at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
SWC VanHorn said he knew something was going on because names were submitted from everyone in his command who had served boots-on-ground in Iraq, and the additional information the command was asking for was intriguing.
“I was really expecting everyone who was submitted to be part of the mysterious event,” he said. “I was in shock to find out that I was the only one from my command to get the golden ticket to this once-in-a- lifetime dinner.”
When a mysterious envelope arrived in the mail, he knew it was something special.
“When I got the invitation in the mail addressed from the White House, with very fancy handwriting on it, I read what was inside and got on the phone to call everyone in my family,” VanHorn said.
Service members were selected to represent the American people. They come from across America – from all states and territories, many backgrounds, and from all ranks and services. VanHorn, originally from Cave Creek, Ariz., will represent his adopted home state of Washington, where he owns a home and plans to live after he retires from the Navy.
VanHorn said he doesn’t think he did anything special to be selected, but it is a great honor.
“There have been thousands of veterans who have sacrificed and served just like I did; and I thank them and their families for their service as well,” he said. “All of them deserve a chance to tell a story about going to the White House for their sacrifices as well.”
VanHorn said he is especially proud to represent the Seabees, as well as his family’s history of military service.
“Serving as a Seabee like my grandfather, in the Navy like my uncle and father, is something that brings us closer than we ever could have been if I never joined,” he said. “I feel the same way about all of my fellow Seabees, service members and all veterans who have ever sacrificed for this country – I’m just one small part of something that I believe in.”
A plaque in front of the Seabee Memorial reads: ‘With compassion for others we build, we fight, for peace with freedom.’
“To be able to live by a code that you believe to be true, to help guide your decisions, is something not everyone can do and I’m proud to be able to do so,” VanHorn said.