Infantryman surprised in meeting newly elected President at inaugural dinner

WTU Force StructureSpc. James Matthews (second from left) with President Trump and other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers from Washington, D.C. area Warrior Transition Units at the January 18 Vice President’s Dinner held at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. (Photo Credit Spc. James Matthews)

By John M. Rosenberg, Warrior Care and Transition

Feb 10, 2017 – The only word that Spc. James Matthews of the Walter Reed National Military Hospital, Warrior Transition Unit needed in summing up his experience in having attended the Vice President’s Dinner at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. on January 18th, was “great.” Matthews was one of several wounded, ill and injured Soldiers from the national capital region specially invited to attend various galas and events surrounding the swearing in of America’s 45th president.

What the New Jersey native did not know upon receiving his invitation, was that he would be meeting not only Vice President, Mike Pence, but also President Donald Trump. “I’d never before met a U.S. president,” said Matthews. As an infantryman, Matthews is trained to anticipate surprises, but in meeting Mr. Trump, especially, he admits to having been “caught off guard.”

“I was so nervous when being introduced [to the president] that I at first had trouble remembering my name when asked,” said Matthews. “We simply had no idea heading into the event that we would meet the president.”

Matthews and his fellow Soldiers received their invitations via President Trump’s transition team, which reached out to local Warrior Transition Units requesting the biographies of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who might be interested in attending inaugural festivities.

“It was an awesome experience being thanked by the president and vice president for our service,” says Matthews. “Both addressed the dinner and stayed around to take group photos.”

For Matthews, inauguration week entailed not one but two special occasions, as the following night he attended the Garden State Inaugural Gala, held in a hotel ballroom near Capitol Hill.

“The Garden State party was a pretty unique experience for me as well,” says Matthews, who enjoyed strolling around the event with his fiancé and fellow Soldiers. “They had a live band playing a mix of ‘90s music, along with a boardwalk theme and a room with pinball machines and games you find along the Jersey Shore. We all just walked around and took in the scenery.”

Nonetheless, it was the previous evening that will surely be etched upon Matthew’s memory for the rest of his life. “I was excitedly texting my sister, my grandparents and friends about meeting President Trump,” says Matthews, “when they were texting me back saying that they knew about it because the photos had been posted on the president’s Facebook page!”