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Winona couple go to dinner at White House

March 18, 2012
By KEVIN HOWELL , Salem News

WINONA - Little did Elaine Brye know that a Christmas card to the White House would bring national attention to the military family in Winona.

Elaine and her husband Courtney, parents of four military personnel in four different branches, shared the head table at the State Dinner at the White House Wednesday night welcoming British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"Just to be there was an honor, very overwhelming," Elaine said of the invitation.

The Bryes dined with the president and first lady and mingled with White House officials, foreign dignitaries and even George Clooney,

earning the recognition from the first lady's Joining Forces initiative in support of military families and drawing mention on several national blogs.

According to Elaine, she wrote the Christmas card and letter to Michelle Obama in appreciation of her efforts in support of military

families, hardly expecting a reply, let alone an invite to a state dinner.

"The fact that it was the commander-in-chief as well as the prime minister and his wife, here are some of the most powerful people in

the world and they still took time to pay attention to a letter from a mom," she said. "We're nobody special. It's amazing to have someone

care about our kids in that way."

Elaine's letter told what it is like to be the mother of the Bryes' four children: 2001 United graduate Eric, a captain in the Marine

Corps with an 11-year-old son; 2003 United graduate Jordan, a lieutenant in the Navy with a 14-month-old daughter; 2005 United

graduate Katrina Brye Moon, a first lieutenant in the Air Force with a 2-month-old son and husband who is also in the Air Force; and 2008

United graduate Brendan, a member of the ROTC at the University of North Dakota set to graduate in May.

The three oldest have been deployed overseas four times, with Eric being deployed again in July.

Service to the United States runs deep in the family, too.

Elaine met Courtney, now a retired airline pilot, in the Air Force. He went on to earn three flying medals in the Vietnam War.

But that it would someday lead to VIP treatment and dinner with the president, recognition on national blogs and cocktails with George

Clooney, would never have been dreamed of.

"It still seems surreal right now," Elaine said.

Kevin Howell can be reached at



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