For the second time President Barack Obama will not attend an Inaugural event ball held to recognize Medal of Honor recipients.
A spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee confirmed Friday that Obama would attend only the official Inaugural Ball and the Commander-in-Chief’s ball -- the latter of which is just for servicemembers and where MoH recipients are special guests.
Obama was criticized by some four years ago when he became the first President to skip the American Legion’s Salute to Heroes ball since it was first held in 1953.
Also noticeably absent from the planned list of attendees for the Jan. 21 event is former Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, one of only three living MoH recipients from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the only one who will not be present.
“As I understand it, invitations were sent to all living MOH recipients. 25 of them decided to attend our banquet,” Legion spokesman Marty Callaghan said in an email Friday. Meyer, who received the nation’s highest award for valor for going to the rescue of U.S. and Afghan troops caught in an ambush in 2009, could not be reached for comment.
Those scheduled to attend include Salvatore Giunta and Leroy Petry, former Army staff sergeants who, like Meyer, received the Medal for actions in Afghanistan. The Medal of Honor has been awarded seven other times since 2001 – three for actions in Afghanistan and four in Iraq. In all those cases the award was presented posthumously.
Also scheduled to attend the Salute to Heroes ball are World War II veterans Walter Ehlers and Hershel Williams; Korean War vets Thomas Hudner and Ronald Rosser; and 19 Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War: John Baca, Donald Ballard, Gary Beikirch, Patrick Brady, Sammy Davis, Roger Donlon, Harold Fritz, Joe Jackson, Jack Jacobs, Walter Marm, Jr.; Thomas Norris, Robert O’Malley, Robert Patterson, Alfred Rascon, Ronald Ray, Gordon Roberts, James Sprayberry, Kenneth Stumpf and Brian Thacker. In all, the 25 veterans slated to attend the ball represent about a third of the living Medal of Honor recipients, according to the Legion.
The Legion began holding the Salute to Heroes Ball in 1953 as part of the Inauguration Day events surrounding the swearing in of Dwight Eisenhower as the 34th President of the United States.
Every president since then made an appearance at the ball until Obama four years ago.
Following charges that he “snubbed” the Medal of Honor recipients the White House released a statement saying Obama appeared only the balls organized by Presidential Inaugural Committee. The statement also pointed out the special invitation status of MoH recipients at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball.
At the time the American Legion also issued a statement intended to defuse the criticism.
“Of course, we would have loved for him to make an appearance, but he didn’t,” the statement read in part. “He did meet with the troops at the Commander In Chief’s Ball, and we are grateful for that. Our Ball wasn’t about the President; it was about the Medal of Honor recipients and the veterans and families who were there.”