Vet meets with Barack Obama over pizza,By Jessica Heslam,October 20 2011
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‘EVERYTHING’ PIZZA: Foxboro native Brian Sullivan was among a small group of veterans that shared a pizza with President and Michelle Obama at Anna’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen in Virginia yesterday.

By Jessica Heslam

As an Army bomb disposal specialist, Foxboro native Brian Sullivan swept sites ahead of presidential visits by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

But he never got to shake his commander in chief’s hand — or share a pizza with the boss — before yesterday.

“It’s an amazing experience to be able to meet the president of the United States,” said still-giddy Sullivan. “Not everybody gets to do it.”

Lunch with President Obama and the first lady was not on Sullivan’s agenda yesterday morning, when he arrived at a hotel in Hampton, Va., at the behest of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The 41-year-old married father of five, who now lives in Virginia, was one of four veterans who sat down with the Obamas at a Virginia pizza joint after the duo spoke about jobs for military vets at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

“I would see the president when I was in the Army, but I wouldn’t shake his hand, and today I actually got to shake his hand,” said Sullivan, who did two tours in Afghanistan and was discharged in 2006 after injuring his knee.

Sullivan, who works as a manager for defense contractor BAE Systems, said he got a call Friday night from the nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, asking him to take part in a round table discussion with senior White House staffers.

Sullivan agreed — and had no idea what was in store for him.

When he showed up, a White House staffer told him and three other vets they were going over to the base to listen to the president speak. Then, Sullivan learned he and the Obamas had a lunch date.

“I was like, ‘Really? Wow,’ ” recalled Sullivan, “Now I’m not doing the mission, I’m actually a voice for people.”

At Anna’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen, the vets introduced themselves to the Obamas and shook their hands when they walked through the door.

“It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” Sullivan told him.

The president ordered a large “everything” pizza and a couple of sweet teas for himself and the missus. He went around the table, asking each of his guests to tell him about themselves.

“He looks at me and says, ‘Brian, I see that you were an EOD guy in the Army,’ ” said Sullivan, who was part of an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.

Sullivan talked to the president about his company’s veterans program and the trouble he’s had with the VA’s health-care system. Sullivan, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, also showed the President the Mood Tracker application on his smartphone.

“He actually took it and he opened it up — he’s pretty savvy with a smartphone — and said, ‘Wow this is pretty neat,’ ” Sullivan said.

The couple were wowed when he told them his five kids range in age from 1 1⁄2 to 17. As they left, Michelle Obama told him to “keep up the good work.” While Sullivan said he leaned toward Republican Ron Paul in 2008, he called yesterday’s experience “awesome.”


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Written By: Jessica Heslam | The Boston Herald

Published on: Thursday, October 20, 2011 

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Thursday, October 20, 2011
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