29 soldiers attend dinner for Iraq war veterans at White House

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Only 29 soldiers, and a few dozen troops from the other services, were invited to join their commander in chief at the White House for a dinner tonight to honor all the million-plus troops who served in Iraq.

The chosen few packed into a reception room across town from the White House for a pre-dinner reception this evening, many of them with spouses and guests. The troops in gleaming dress uniforms and wives in formal gowns made the crowd at the Academy Awards just a few nights ago seem drab by comparison. (Best dressed: the Labrador retriever guide dog in a black vest and Marine Corps insignia, escorting his Marine.)

Soldiers told Army Times they are honored to be among President Obama’s dinner guests, representing their Army brethren. When asked if they would want to share the honor with any of their fellow soldiers, they didn’t hesitate to answer.

Sgt. Joshua Labbe, who received a Silver Star for his actions in a seven-hour firefight in Iraq, said he would share the honor with Staff Sgt. John Reiners, who was killed in action in Afghanistan about two years ago. He was one of Labbe’s first squad leaders.

“He was a great buddy,” Labbe said, glancing down at the bracelet he wore inscribed with Reiners’ name.

Staff Sgt. Shawon Tucker, who had two tours in Iraq as a dietician’s assistant, said she would share the honor with her mentor, Sgt. 1st Class Jermaine Jones. And she did. He came to the dinner with her.

How did Tucker feel about meeting the president tonight?

“Ecstatic,” she said.

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