Last week in Washington, D.C., Naval Reserve officer and Grand Junction local Lt. Marshall Metli got a surprise visit from his soon-to-be new boss — President-elect Barack Obama.

“I was really impressed by how personable he was. He took the time to shake our hands and ask a little bit about ourselves. I wish I would have went with the fist bump,” Metli said.

Metli, a sales representative for Halliburton when he’s not serving as a company commander with the Naval Reserve in Utah, has been at a unique crossroads of duty and history since November. For the past couple of months, Metli has been living and working in Washington, D.C., selected to be a special event project officer helping to organize the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

Obama, he said, had a briefing in the building and just stopped by to say thanks for the effort of all the troops in Metli’s office, who are frenetically planning the Commander in Chief’s inaugural ball — one of 10 the president and Mrs. Obama will attend on their whirlwind inaugural day.

“When they presented this idea to me, the thing about it was it’s such a historic time right now. I kind of jumped at the chance to be a part of it,” Metli said.

The Commander in Chief’s Ball that Metli is helping to organize is unique in that it’s specifically to honor the country’s active duty and reserve military. About 2,400 people are expected to attend the event, and in addition to the enlisted military members invited by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, many of the guests will also be Purple Heart recipients, families of fallen heroes and spouses of deployed military.

“It’s to honor all of the military members around the world and let them know that
(President-elect Obama) thinks what they’re doing is really important,” Metli said.

“My job is to make sure that we honor (Obama) properly and make sure he’s got his band and the color guard, and that he’s rendered the proper honors that he deserves,” he said.

Day to day, Metli is coordinating the military details of the ball, and he has become an expert about the facility where the ball will be held: the grand National Building Museum.

Most recently, it was the ornate venue where Hillary Clinton memorably suspended her campaign for president in a sweeping farewell address.

But on Jan. 20 it will be the focus of the American military world. For Metli, though, it will be a night to perform, rather than partake in the festivities.

“This is showtime for me and everybody else. This is what we’re really gearing up for, is to perform that day, and really put the military in a positive light and to show the gratitude to all the troops that have been overseas,” he said.

And while the honor of his duty is not lost on him, Metli said the hardest part has been being away from his family in Grand Junction: his wife, Katie, and two small children, 3-year-old Amaya and 1 1/2-year-old Gavin. But even that sacrifice comes with its own perspective.

“It’s nothing compared to what our soldiers and sailors and Marines are doing overseas. I get the chance to call my family every night and listen to my kids, but I’m just here for three months. Those guys are really sacrificing over there,” he said.


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