Romesha chooses family, friends over president

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: February 12, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 12, 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. - Clinton Romesha on Tuesday strode through another building he'd never been in — this time, the Pentagon.

He accepted praise from yet another set of Defense Department leaders — in particular, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Secretary John McHugh.

For Romesha, the ceremony was an honor.

It was also the last he planned to attend on Tuesday.

In an unusual step, Romesha turned down President Barack Obama’s invitation to appear at the State of the Union address. As a recipient of the Medal of Honor -- an award bestowed to the former Fort Carson staff sergeant on Monday -- he was offered the chance to sit beside First Lady Michelle Obama.

Instead, Romesha opted to spend the evening with his family.

Obama's address simply came at the most inopportune of times.

Romesha celebrated his 13th wedding anniversary Tuesday. On Feb. 12, 2000 -- shortly after he left Army basic training -- Clinton Romesha married Tammy, a girl he met in middle school while the two grew up in northeast California.

And for most of this anniversary, he fielded superlatives from Army generals while his wife waited at his side.

His decision brought his whirlwind celebrity tour of the nation's capital to an end at the Pentagon, where he was inducted into the Hall of Heroes.

The shrine memorializes recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.

In bestowing the Medal of Honor flag, Panetta lauded Romesha as a man who represented the best of American soldiers.

"You fought well, you fought bravely and you're now a part of American history," Panetta said.

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