In 2010, while at Camp Victory, Iraq, 11 female Soldiers received the opportunity to eat lunch with and ask questions of Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States.
Sgt. Ashleigh Berg, currently the strength management noncommissioned officer for the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, was among those hand-selected to receive the honor.
When it came time for Berg to ask the second lady something poignant and meaningful, the only thing that came to her mind was, "Ma'am, I love your shoes! Where did you get them?"
That question stuck in Dr. Biden's mind and opened several doors for Berg during the past two years; it netted Berg her invitations to both the 2012 State of the Union Address, as well as this year's Inaugural Ball -- all because of Berg's and Dr. Biden's shared love of footwear.
"I am a shoe person," said Berg. "I own more than 50 pairs of shoes. After meeting in Iraq that first time, I was able to snap a photo of myself and Dr. Biden. I sent them to my mom who is a big fan of hers. My mom sent the pictures to the White House to see if Dr. Biden would sign them. Not only did she sign them, but she and my mom stayed in contact, and my mom was invited out to the White House to meet her!"A year ago, almost to the day, Berg received contact from the White House inviting her to be Dr. Biden's escort to the 2012 State of the Union Address.
"It felt as if I had just won an Oscar!" Berg exclaimed. "I sat right next to her and close to Michelle Obama during the whole speech."
This year, Berg was again invited to the White House for the 2013 Inaugural Ball, a large social gathering of both white tie and black ties, held to celebrate the commencement of the new term of the President of the United States.
"It's a big honor to be invited," Berg said. "It's even better that they gave me a second ticket."
Berg plans on taking her father to the ball.
"I'm more excited for him," said Berg. "When I told my dad, he literally started sobbing. It was very moving, and I'm excited to be able to give him this chance."
Last year, Berg was able to spend a lot of quality time with the second lady.
"She's the nicest person I've ever met," she said with a grin. "She showed me her shoes at the State of the Union, too, and they were gorgeous."
This year, she will have the same opportunity.
"I can't wait to see what shoes she has on this year!" Berg exclaimed.