By Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The stress finally started to permeate upon the realization that tomorrow I would come eye to eye with one of the most recognized faces in the world.
I was excited since I first received news Jan. 12 that I would get to see Air Force One land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and possibly have a chance to shake President Barack Obama’s hand Jan. 15.
I received the honor because I had recently been chosen as Airman of the month, along with two others from my office, as a reward for outstanding performance.
Tuesday night, I tried to watch TV and unwind. Each time I came close to relaxing I remembered one more detail needing preparation for the morning. My anticipation for the next day quickly turned to anxiety.
After a restless night, my wife and I got up at 4 a.m. to prepare for our 6:45 a.m. departure.
We talked all the way to Raleigh. Neither of us could believe that we were going to meet the president.
The doors didn’t open until 9:30 a.m. and we got there early to be at the front of the line.
When the doors opened, we were herded to one end of a staging area. Our group huddled toward the front, waiting excitedly. When security released us to the roped off area on the tarmac, we realized we were actually at the back of the room and were some of the last to exit.
As a photographer, I wanted to be at the front so I could take good photos, not to mention I was selfishly hoping for an opportunity to shake the president’s hand.
Air Force One landed and taxied to it’s final destination. The president’s car pulled up between Air Force One and our waiting area, and I thought he would probably get right into his car without shaking any hands.
I was frustrated. All of the things I had planned for weren’t happening. As my hopes for the day were falling through, Obama rounded his car and made his way toward us and everything changed.
I forgot everything. I wasn’t frustrated anymore, I was just excited. My only thought was trying to get a good picture. Holding the camera over my head I was snapping pictures as fast as the camera would take them.
Obama kept getting closer and I kept bobbing and weaving in an attempt to catch him between the people in front of me. Finally he stood right in front of me. Looking through my lens it looked like there was a lot of room between the two people in front of me.
“And how are you doing today?” Obama asked.
I lowered my camera in confusion, surely he wasn’t talking to me, but he was, and as I shook his hand three words just floated out of my mouth with no thought on my part.
“Good. You sir?”
In response as he turned to go to the next person, Obama, my commander in chief, gave me the thumbs up.
Then the moment was over, and the camera was back up. He climbed into his car with one final wave, and the motorcade began its long procession away from the airport.
The rest of the day, I told everyone I interacted with that I just shook the president’s hand. Some people didn’t believe me, most were impressed and excited I had this opportunity.
I shared this story because I was excited to meet my commander in chief. He gave me something to aspire to in my military career. I hope that no matter how high I rise in the ranks, how important my mission is or how tight of a schedule I have, I still take time to brighten someone’s day like the president did for me.
I am happy I had this opportunity. I was impressed Obama took the time to ask me how I was, when my only thought was taking pictures. I know that my wife and I will remember this moment for the rest of our lives.