By Karen Tumulty
Published: January 22
Five years ago, there had been a chance encounter in an Austin elevator between a Vietnam veteran and a future commander in chief. For the rest of the campaign, the candidate would carry the military patch that the stranger gave him that day.
On Tuesday, Earl Smith met Barack Obama again — this time, in the Oval Office.
The 68-year-old former infantryman gave the president a salute, and Obama returned it.
Over the years, the gift of that military patch had taken on an almost mythic significance among the Obama inner circle.
Obama carried it among about a dozen similar tokens that people had pressed upon him during the 2008 campaign, and he told aides that it was a reminder of why he had run for president in the first place.
He had served in Vietnam in a unit that suffered 10,041 casualties over the course of the war. From the time he had come home, the patch — which was the only shred he kept of his uniform — had been Smith’s lucky charm. Smith had survived the war, and endured three years in prison in the 1970s on charges for which he was later pardoned. He then built a successful career in the hotel industry, which took him and his patch halfway around the world again.
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Fri Jan 18 2013
When Earl Smith first met then Senator Obama in an elevator in February 2008 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, his time with the future President was short. But Smith gave Obama something that he would carry with him for the rest of the campaign.
The Washington Post