Scaled-down inauguration events honor troops, military families
By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 20, 2012
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will honor troops serving overseas and military families in his inauguration festivities next month, an extension of the White House’s ongoing campaign to highlight their sacrifice.
An inaugural source says plans call for a pop concert for military children the weekend of the inauguration and an expanded Commander in Chief’s ball, one of only two official inaugural balls to be sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Planners have promised that the celebration surrounding the inauguration Jan. 21 will be much smaller in scope and cost than the parties in 2009, with an eye toward the still sluggish national economy.
But a person familiar with the committee’s work said the events will also have a focus on the military, and include a number of opportunities for servicemembers and their families to interact with political leaders.
The Commander in Chief’s ball will feature Pentagon officials, Medal of Honor recipients, wounded warriors and representatives from throughout the armed forces. Tickets for the event will be distributed through the Department of Defense and the Joint Task Force for the National Capital Region, which is also assisting with security for all inaugural events.
Hosting just two official inaugural balls would be a dramatic change from recent history, when the first family has made frequent stops and wardrobe changes in an effort to thank thousands of celebrating supporters.
In 2009, Obama attended 10 official balls. Planners for President George W. Bush scheduled eight for his first inauguration and nine for his second. President Bill Clinton attended the most of any president, with 14 on the night of his second inauguration.
Both of the official presidential balls will be at the Washington, D.C., convention center. Dozens of unofficial balls – ones where the president is not expected to make an appearance – are being planned for the citywide celebration.
Acts for the children’s concert – to be hosted the Saturday before the inauguration by First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden – have not yet been announced, but officials are promising performers will include pop favorites of military children.
Tickets for that event will be free and will be handled through the Department of Defense.
In early 2011, the White House announced its Joining Forces campaign to highlight the work of military and the hardships their families endure. The initiative has also included efforts to increase employment opportunities for veterans, and a public campaign to encourage communities to help returning combat troops with the transition back to civilian life.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has also announced a number of military acts scheduled to march in the inaugural parade, including the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, Kansas, and the 81st Regional Support Command Wildcats from Fort Jackson, S.C.