On Sunday morning, Vietnam veteran Gerry Patten bumped into Redwood County Veteran Service Officer Marty Caraway at church.
Patten, a Democratic Party activist in Redwood County, asked if Caraway was aware President Obama would be in Minnesota the next day to speak about gun control.
Caraway went home and made a phone call.
“I called a friend who’s an event coordinator with the White House, and asked if we could swing a deal,” Caraway said on Thursday.
“The friend told me the actual gun control function was closed, but he could get us into the meet-and-greet at the airport for family and friends.”
Caraway gave his and Patten’s information so they could be checked out by the Secret Service overnight, and the mission was on.
On Monday morning, Caraway grabbed his seven year old daughter Grace from school, picked up Patten, and they were off.
After going through security at the Twin Cities airport, they were put in a waiting room along with about 50 other family and friends waiting for Air Force One.
(“While we were waiting, a lieutenant colonel made me coffee. That was the high point of the day for me,” Caraway laughed.)
Finally, Air Force One taxied up to the terminal, and everyone was led outside onto the concrete to wait.
First the president left the plane with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
As Klobuchar walked by the crowd, she noticed Patten, who she met at an event last summer.
“She came up and said, ‘How’s life in Redwood Falls?’” Patten said. “It was cool that she remembered me, and related me to this town.”
Caraway said, “When he came out, the president ran past ‘the beast’ (the presidential vehicle) and ran over to us.
“Grace was sitting on my shoulders. When the president shook her hand, he said, ‘Hey there, little lady! That’s quite the view you have up there!’”
Patten got his moment in the sun, too.
“I extended my hand, and the president shook it,” said Patten. “I was pulling back my hand, and he noticed my Vietnam Veterans cap and thanked me for my service. Then he reached into his pocket and handed me a presidential medallion.”
And then the president hopped into his vehicle and was off to give his speech on the other side of the Twin Cities.
To be fair, Grace has packed a lot of political face experience into her seven years. She got to meet Vice-President Biden when the Caraways visited Washington D.C. last November.
Page 2 of 2 - And then there’s that historical thing....
“Grace’s great-aunt-times-three was Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, the first female senator,” said Caraway.
“When we went to D.C. on Veterans Day, our focus was on national history, on the most basic level of politics.
“We found a portrait of Hattie Caraway hanging by the entrance to the senate,” said Caraway.
What was Graces’ reaction to shaking hands with the president?
“Grace is very low key. She was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool. I just met the president,’” Caraway laughed. “Then we went out to have lunch.”
Caraway added, “I should have asked the president if he wanted to buy any Girl Scout cookies.”