First lady serves steaks to troops, families at Ramstein
Stars and Stripes November 11, 2010
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Three thousand free steaks were cooked Thursday for servicemembers and their families at Ramstein for a special Veterans Day luncheon.
But a couple of hundred ticketholders were especially lucky.
“I looked up and there she was, serving with an apron on,” said LonVondee Stallings, 40, a teacher at Vogelweh elementary school and an Air Force spouse.
First lady Michelle Obama quietly walked into the banquet room at the Ramstein Officers’ Club, taking the crowd by surprise as she served up steaks alongside Gen. Roger Brady, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.
“She is so beautiful. Oh my goodness,” gushed a star-struck Stallings.
Obama talked individually with troops and their children as they moved through the line, stopping last for a steak from the first lady.
“She called me handsome,” said 14-year-old De’Shon Wright, an eighth-grader at Ramstein Middle School. “It was a big moment.”
“I was honored that she took the time out of her schedule to come see us,” said De’Shon’s mother, 1st Lt. LaToshia Wright, 31, a protocol officer with the 86th Airlift Wing.
Obama later moved through the room to sign autographs, shake hands, exchange hugs and pose for photos. Trading her apron for a microphone, she said the stop Thursday at Ramstein after touring Asia with her husband, President Barack Obama, was for aircraft refueling.
But before heading back to her daughters, Sasha and Malia, at the White House, she wanted to take a few moments to say “thank you” to the troops and their families from “a very grateful nation.”
“We have a lot of work to do, but you all are helping move this country forward in so many critical ways,” she said.
Earlier in the morning, the first lady met with more than a dozen wounded servicemembers at nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, during a visit that was closed to the media. She also met briefly at Ramstein with German first lady, Bettina Wulff.
The donated steaks were delivered and grilled by 11 cooks from the California-based Cooks of the Valley.
Staff Sgt. Troy French, 24, of the 86th Maintenance Squadron, said his squadron passed out tickets to the luncheon to “outstanding airmen.” But he and his wife, Diana, had no idea that Obama would be there. They began to suspect something after spotting the herd of media with big cameras in the corner.
“It definitely shows some support,” he said of the first lady’s visit.
D.L. West, the executive chef at the club, knew in advance that Obama would be at the luncheon, but he couldn’t hold back the tears when she gave him a hug.
“I told her what a great job she’s doing. She called me a friend,” said the 68-year-old black retired Army cook from Fayetteville, N.C. “I will never wash these clothes again.”