By Patrick Yost
When Morgan County businessman Wendell McNeal stood outside the north entrance of the White House with his friend Karen McCoy in preparation to begin a two-day stint as a volunteer greeter, he had one emotion.
“I was scared,” McNeal said.
To McNeal, the structure that stood before him represented “The People’s House” and stood as a monument to the culmination of years of American history and struggle.
And, he said, it was the greatest place he could have ever spent a Christmas vacation.
McNeal spent two days at the White House, working approximately 3.5 hours per day to help guests touring the building during the glorious Christmas season.
“It was a pleasure working with the First Lady’s impressive and friendly staff,” he said. On Christmas Eve he and McCoy were granted a personal tour of the White House including viewing the stunning Christmas decorations in the building’s East Wing. When McNeal finished his official volunteer duties at the White House, he was given latitude to tour portions of the structure on his own.
To enter daily, he said, you pass through several checkpoint areas where you are both physically searched and searched using electronic devices like thermal imaging cameras. “It’s amazing what they know about you,” he said.
McNeal serves on the executive board of the Morgan County Republican Party and is one of 76 state Republican delegates.
The greatest experience during his volunteer service was interacting with families with children. “Everyone had their kids,” he said.
In a press release regarding the trip, it was stated that the McNeals also visited the Vietnam Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. McNeal reflected that the cemetery tour brought “tears to his eyes” as he considered the thousands of soldiers buried there, having lost their lives in service to our country.
McNeal also had the chance to meet with Congressman, Dr. Jody Hice, and have a meaningful conversation with Chaplain (Rear Admiral) Gregory Todd, the current Chaplain of the USMC.
McNeal said the opportunity to spend time at such iconic American sites at the end of a challenging year was an encouraging reminder of America’s resilience and grit.
“This was Christmas. It wasn’t politics. It was about history, all of it.”