Airman crosses president’s path for third time

  • Published
  • By Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
Few people have the privilege of meeting the President of the United States just once. Keesler's Airman 1st Class Alan Petz recently recorded a third visit with President George W. Bush in just three years. 

Airman Petz was among about 600 volunteers from around the nation to attend the president's Sept. 8 speech discussing volunteerism on the south lawn of the White House. 

In his speech, President Bush thanked the "armies of compassion" and those in attendance who "represent the hundreds of thousands of our citizens who answered the call to love a neighbor like we'd like to be loved ourselves." 

The 81st Therapeutics and Diag-nostics Squadron diet therapy journeyman traveled to Washington on permissive TDY to participate in the event. 

"I was invited by an e-mail around Aug. 20," he explained. "It was a surprise, although a couple of days earlier I received a phone call from the Freedom Corps wanting to update my information in their data base. The e-mail arrived a couple of days later." 

USA Freedom Corps was created in 2002 after President Bush called on "all Americans to enlist in the armies of compassion and dedicate at least 4,000 hours in service to their communities, our country and to the world." 

Coincidently, Airman Petz, who is deeply involved in volunteer efforts, was in Jackson, Wyo., participating in a U.S. Forest Service project at the time with the Boy Scouts, removing fences and rehabilitating trails. 

Airman Petz said the opportunity to visit the White House was a primary reason he attended the function. 

"We really didn't have the opportunity to meet the president," he said. "After the speech we were given a tour of the White House, primarily the second floor; the East Room, Red and Blue Rooms and the state dining room." 

The tour, which lasted about 30 minutes, followed the president's 23-minute speech. 

Airman Petz first met President Bush in March 2006 when he was working on Katrina relief. The president was visiting the Coast and recognized the volunteers for their efforts. 

In May 2007, President Bush personally presented Airman Petz the Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Service Award next to Air Force One on the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center tarmac. 

Airman Petz, a native of Peoria, Ill., has been involved in volunteerism since he was in the Boy Scouts as part of the organization's community service goal. 

"I wasn't that involved once I arrived at Keesler," he commented. "However, since Katrina I've really gotten back into it and haven't stopped. I probably have about 1,000 hours on Katrina relief. I was in Chauvin, La., Sept. 3-6 helping after Gustav, removing trees and tarping roofs." 

Airman Petz, who marks five years in the Air Force this month -- all of it at Keesler -- summed up his White House experience by observing, "Meeting the president the first time was kind of exciting; after that it loses its luster. Going to Washington and listening to the speech made this significant."