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The Pentagon & "Welcome Home" Ceremony

posted by Kristen Dalton at 02:02pm on 06/15/2009

Hello! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

This past Thursday was probably the most rewarding day I have had thus far in my time as Miss USA. I had the chance to visit the Pentagon for the second time. I got to visit the Office of the Chief of Staff for the Army Reserves and speak with our army’s leaders and thank them for their service to our nation. I was also able to ask questions on their opinions of the possibility of going to war with North Korea. I visited the General Commander George Casey’s office, where I was given a tour which included many historical pieces of furniture that had been used by former Presidents and old paintings from wars. Then, I visited the 9/11 memorial at ground zero where they have also built a non-denominational chapel. I signed the condolence book and laid flowers under the Purple Heart monument. That really was the most emotional part of the day because I was actually in the part of the building that the plane had crashed in to, where over 250 innocent lives were taken. Tears filled my eyes as I read the names of the lives that were lost on that tragic day, September, 11 2001.   After my visit at the Pentagon, I stopped at the Walter Reed Memorial Hospital in Silver Springs, Maryland, which is the home of warrior care. At lunch in the hospital dining room, we celebrated the Army’s 234th birthday by cutting and handing out birthday cake, yummy! Then I began to visit some of the wounded soldiers who had recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I was so amazed at the stories that each soldier in the orthopedic ward shared with me on their missions. All of the soldiers were amputees and some I visited had just finished with surgery, which was heartbreaking. Most of them were in their early 20’s, and even though they had experienced such traumas, they had such inspiring attitudes. They were so proud to have served their country in such a dynamic way and to be back here with their families and friends.  After that, I visited the pediatric ward, which serves children of active military service men and women.   After my visit with Walter Reed, I moved on to the Marine Barracks of Washington DC where I “chowed” with military members in their mess hall and took pictures! Thank you so much to the HERO foundation for hosting this trip.   Friday, I attended the USO National Guard Returnee Ceremony in Trenton, New Jersey. This was the largest homecoming since WWII.  It was so amazing to look out in the arena where the ceremony was held and see 2,800 soldiers who had just returned from Iraq and their families surrounding them, which comprised of about 10,000 supporters. The governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, spoke among other state and military officials. Melinda Doolittle and the Liberty Bells were the entertainers. It was so incredible being in the midst of our country’s heroes, dedicated USO staff members and volunteers, and New Jersey’s state officials to welcome home the security and backbone of our nation.  It really was wonderful to see so many people come out to show their appreciation and patriotism to the men and women who sacrificed so much in order to preserve the ideals and liberty on which America was founded. I am so thankful to be able to show my gratefulness for their service and I hope all Americans can do the same when they see a soldier. Thank you to the NY/NJ USO for inviting me to take part in this fabulous event.   Quote of the Weekend: “If a man does his best, what else is there?” General George S. Patton   Until next time, Kristen      

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