WNYT.com

Soldiers honored to attend inaugural ball

Posted at: 01/17/2013 5:48 PM
Updated at: 01/17/2013 5:58 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

LATHAM - "My wife and a platoon of girlfriends are going gown shopping tonight," laughed Command Sgt. Major Frank Wicks, while speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon.

Describing how their wives and girlfriend are shopping this week for fancy gowns, Wicks and two fellow soldiers shared their excitement about attending an inaugural ball on Monday night with the President and First Lady.

They know it's a rare honor to represent the New York Army National Guard.

"It's going to be surreal. The whole focus for the nation for that day and evening  is going to be on Washington DC and the inauguration of the President.  To be in that at that precise time is going to be exciting," said Capt. Shawn Tabankin. 

"We gather because we have chosen hope over fear," said President Barack Obama at his first swearing-in four years ago.

After President Obama is sworn in for his second term with great ceremony and a parade, he'll attend the Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural ball for members of the military and their guests.

The local soldiers were chosen because of their achievements and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wicks, of West Sand Lake, is the senior enlisted soldier in the New York Army National Guard. Tabankin of Rexford, received a purple heart after a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. David Martinsen, of Troy, won the Guard's non-commissioned Officer of the Year award for 2012.

"He says,' would you like to have this opportunity to go?' And I said, 'of course I would! So it's definitely a great opportunity and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to go down there," Martinsen said.

"I mean the Commander in Chief is the highest ranking member of the military so any member of the military is just honored to have an interaction with the Commander in Chief," said Wicks.

Troops currently deployed in Afghanistan will be able to watch the festivities at the ball via live video.