Blanding resident Betty Lou Workman, the mother of fallen Navy Seal Jason Workman, attended the recent State of the Union address on February 5 in the United States Capitol.
Workman, one of two Gold Star family members from Utah, was invited to attend the State of the Union address as the guest of Senator Mitt Romney. In a Facebook post, Romney said he was humbled to be joined at the State of the Union address by Workman.
Gold Star is the term used to distinguish a family member who has lost a loved one during military service. Jason Workman, a Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer, was killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down by insurgents in August 2011.
Betty Workman had already traveled back East to be with family when she received the call.
Kelsey Berg, who works on the Romney staff, had worked with Workman when naming the San Juan River bridge after her son. Berg remembered Workman and recommended her to Romney.
“I do feel honored,” said Workman. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
She describes events happening very fast. There was an itinerary, including dinner, a tour of the Senate building, and then the State of the Union address at 9 p.m.
Senator Romney and members of his staff escorted her throughout the event. She attended dinner with Romney, who introduced her to those attending, including Senators Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and others.
Afterward, Romney took Workman on a personal tour of the Senate Building. As they walked past statues and marveled at the paintings on the dome in the Capitol rotunda, they talked about their families.
“He treated me so nice. I was very appreciative of him choosing me,” recalls Workman.
She was then escorted to the House gallery, where she would watch the speech. Although another Gold Star family member – a wife – was in attendance, they weren’t seated near each other and never saw each other.
Workman recalls how much better President Donald Trump seemed on this occasion. “He was more presidential,” she recalls.
“I really like the way he tried to unify our country. I don’t know whether it will ever happen. The division in our country – to see it in person – the reaction on their faces – both parties.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a point where everyone will agree with President Trump. I don’t think many have ever given President Trump a chance.”
As for Senator Romney, Workman said he felt good about what President Trump had said that night.
The following morning, Workman was taken to Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of her son. It had been a number of years since she had been to the grave, and it touched her that they offered this kind gesture.
A bouquet of lilies had been ordered and given to her to place at his headstone.
“They didn’t have to do that. It meant so much to me.”
Famous Senators, stately dinners, the VIP treatment, and even if she had met the President himself – nothing means more than the remembrance of her son, of giving a mother the chance to touch her hands to the cool headstone of her son’s resting place.
That others remember her son, that he is recognized as a hero, and that others recognize the sacrifice of a deeply faithful and patriotic family was the greatest gift of all.
“I like to have the memory of my son kept alive.”