Daily News/James Gordon Meek—He didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t have to.
President Obama simply stuck out his hand and asked for my name as he stepped toward me amid a bone-chilling drizzle in the Gardens of Stone.
This was Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. I wasn’t there as a reporter, but to visit some friends and family buried there when Obama made an unscheduled stop – a rare presidential walk among what Lincoln called America’s “honored dead” – after laying a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.What I got was an unexpected look into the eyes of a man who intertwined his roles as commander in chief and consoler in chief on a solemn day filled with remembrance and respect for sacrifices made – and sacrifices yet to be made.
I’m sure the cynics will assume this was just another Obama photoop.
If they’d been standing in my boots looking him in the eye, they would have surely choked on their bile.
His presence in Section 60 convinced me that he now carries the heavy burden of command.
I had stopped at Arlington to see the resting place of Ken Taylor, Ed Lenard and Dave Sharrett. Ken and Ed survived their service, in World War II and Korea, and died as old men. Dave did not leave Iraq alive. He was 27.
Obama arrived just before noon at the serene Section 60, where many of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried together – and where many more heroes will undoubtedly be laid to rest before this President leaves office.
It’s a section typically bustling with those visiting loved ones. Every time I go there, more and more graves have been dug into the earth.
The President and First Lady Michelle Obama emerged from their armored limousine hatless in the frigid downpour and took a slow stroll into the soggy rows of white marble headstones.
They stopped first at the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Ross McGinnis, an Army private who threw himself on a grenade in Iraq three years ago to save four buddies.
A sad-faced woman reached for Obama’s hand and pointed him to a nearby plot.
The face of another woman – who had grimly sat in a folding chair for hours next to a headstone she’d arranged flowers around – suddenly broadened into a smile as she stood to embrace Obama and thank him for paying his respects.
She was so overcome with emotion that a soldier from the Army’s Old Guard had to console her afterward.The President patted backs of a dozen other Gold Star relatives and troops visiting buddies now in the ground.
He gave hugs. He shook wet, chilly hands. He wanted to know something about each fallen warrior.
He began to slowly trudge back toward the motorcade – and to another White House huddle with his war council, which is advising him whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops into harm’s way in Afghanistan.
And then Obama noticed a tall, bearded figure. He probably didn’t see the mud-caked combat boots I trudged around Afghanistan in a few years ago.
“What’s your name?” a somber President asked as he extended his hand.
“James Meek, sir,” I replied, struggling to pull off my wool glove and pull my hood back from my head. “I’m here visiting a friend, Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, who was killed in Iraq last year.”
Tag Archives: cemetary
Posted by Audiegrl
Associated Press/Meg Kinnard—A deputy assistant attorney general who said he was on his lunch break when an officer found him with a stripper and sex toys in his sport utility vehicle has been fired, his boss said Wednesday.
Roland Corning, 66, a former state legislator, was in a secluded part of a downtown cemetery when an officer spotted him Monday, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.
As the officer approached, Corning sped off, then pulled over a few blocks away. He and the 18-year-old woman with him, an employee of the Platinum Plus Gentleman’s Club, gave conflicting stories about what they were doing in the cemetery, Officer Michael Wines wrote in his report, though he did not elaborate.
Corning gave Wines a badge showing he worked for the state Attorney General’s Office. Wines, whose wife also works there, called her to make sure Corning was telling the truth.
He then searched the SUV, where he found a Viagra pill and several sex toys, items Corning said he always kept with him, “just in case,” according to the report.
Corning and the woman were let go without charges. Wines’ wife reported the call to her supervisor, who told Attorney General Henry McMaster.
“We received credible information about inappropriate behavior Monday afternoon,” McMaster said Wednesday. “And by the close of business, he was no longer working here.”
Corning’s Political Background
Corning was an assistant deputy attorney general and deputy securities commissioner with the S.C. Attorney General’s Office.
He is a former state lawmaker from northeast Richland County and has been active in the state’s Republican Party.
He was elected in 1986 to the S.C. House of Representatives from District 79. He chose not to run again in 1994 and was appointed by the Legislature to the state Workers’ Compensation Commission. From there, he went to the state attorney general’s office.
Corning was perhaps best known in the House for his work on anti-abortion initiatives.
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