By SHELLEY TERRY - firstname.lastname@example.org
— An Ashtabula soldier was among those with a front-row seat at the inaugural festivities Monday.
Army Sgt. Jonathan Roberts, 32, was one of two soldiers stationed in Fort Meade, who attended the Commander-in-Chief Ball at Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Roberts said he knows it’s a great and rare honor to represent the U.S. Army.
“I’m really, really lucky,” he said. “I didn’t know I was going until a couple of days ago.”
A friend submitted Roberts’ name and the honor of attending the ball came as a big surprise, he said.
Roberts, son of the Rev. Kenneth and Debbie Roberts of Ashtabula, talked to the Star Beacon Monday night via telephone from the ball.
“(Country singer) Brad Paisley is singing right now,” he said. “It’s just a great opportunity.”
The crowd was composed of active duty and reserve military, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors and their spouses, he said.
Troops deployed in Afghanistan were able to watch the festivities at the ball via live video.
Roberts and a group of friends from the base started their day at 7:30 a.m., boarding public transportation to the inauguration ceremony.
“It was crazy downtown,” he said. “A trip that would normally take 20 minutes, took two hours.”
Twelve hours later, at 7:30 p.m., Roberts was the guest of the President and first lady Michelle Obama at one of two inaugural balls sponsored by the president.
Roberts wore his dress uniform with a bow tie, he said.
Back home in Ashtabula Township, his mother said she was very excited for her son.
“I hope he gets some pictures with the president and Mrs. Obama,” she said.
Former President George W. Bush organized the first Commander-in-Chief Ball in 2005, and the tradition has continued since then.
A linguist in the Army, this isn’t the first time Roberts has received a high honor.
“He’s an exceptional soldier,” his mother said.
The Roberts family moved to Ashtabula when Jonathan Roberts was 4 years old. He attended schools in the Buckeye Local Schools District, graduating from Edgewood Senior High School.