When Latashia White of Lowell was selected to volunteer at the Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball in Washington Monday, the first thing she did was “get myself a dress and some heels and just pack my bags.”
But for White, who had served four years in the US Air Force and who was deployed in Iraq for six months in 2007, the trip means more than attending a big party.
The 25-year-old sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, a native of Alabama who is making her first trip to the nation’s capital, is thrilled to be a part of President Obama’s inauguration for a second term.
“Hopefully, I do get to meet him,” White said. “I’m really excited.”
The Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball is one of two official celebrations being held Monday.
It is open to select members of the military services and their guests, including active duty and reserve service members, wounded warriors, and Medal of Honor recipients. Deployed troops will be watching the event via video.
It is expected that the president, the vice president, and their families will make an appearance.
White ‘is one of our brightest and shining veterans. She’s a very well put together young lady and professional from her military experience.’
White applied to be a volunteer at the ball on the White House website.
“I put in my credentials, and from there the Presidential Inaugural Committee got back to me and said I could volunteer and help out at the ball,” she said.
She was to find out her volunteer duties after arriving in Washington last Thursday. She is returning home Tuesday.
Janine Wert, director of veterans services at UMass Lowell, said members of her office, where White does work-study, were recently discussing how many military veterans have not visited Washington, D.C.
“We said to Latashia, ‘You have to go to D.C.,’ but we had no idea this is the way she would go,” Wert said.
White “is one of our brightest and shining veterans,” Wert said. “She’s a very well put together young lady and professional from her military experience.”
White said that serving in Iraq was “an eye-opening experience” and that being in the military “helped make me a better person, more motivated and more confident.”
She is a full-time student at UMass Lowell majoring in information technology, a field she was introduced to in the Air Force and something she plans to pursue after graduation.
Wert helped White prepare for Monday’s event, but did not accompany her on the trip.
“At first, Latashia was tentative about traveling by herself and being in D.C. by herself,” Wert said.
“I told her ‘This is the night of your life. When you’re a grandmother telling stories to your grandchildren, this is the story you will be telling. Chances like this don’t come twice in a lifetime.’ ”Wendy Killeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.