Cavalry Scout Applauds at State of Union
Staff Sgt. Craig Charloux, 1st Cavalry Division (center), applauds former Senator Bob Dole and former Cabinet Secretary Donna Shalala as they are recognized in the First Lady's box Monday evening during the State of the Union address. President George W. Bush selected Dole and Shalala to co-chair the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors.

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  • Soldiers Radio News (2008-01-29) - 1
  • Soldiers Radio News (2008-01-29) - 1
  • One on One - SSG Charloux
  • One on One - SSG Charloux

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 29, 2008) -- Two weeks ago, Staff Sgt. Craig Charloux was on post-deployment leave with his wife, Bobbi Jo and 9-year old son Stephen in Maine. The last thing the 1st Cavalry Division scout expected was a phone call from his rear detachment commander, notifying him that he had been invited to attend the president's final State of the Union Address.

"He asked me if my wife and I were free Jan. 28, and I asked 'why''" Charloux said. "The R.D. commander told me I'd been chosen to represent the Army at the State of the Union address." Charloux said he thought the commander was joking.

He was shocked, but honored.

"It's all a bit surreal, but it's also an unbelievable honor to be able to represent the Army."

Charloux, who serves as a squad leader in an armored reconnaissance squadron, said the privilege of sitting in the president's box was not something he applied for. "They were looking for an all-American Fort Hood family, and we were fortunate enough to get the call."

Charloux began his Army journey right after high school graduation.

"(I felt that) joining the Army was the patriotic thing you should do out of high school," he said.

Once his enlistment was complete, he went back home to Hermon, Maine, and eventually opened his own auto repair shop. A decade went by before Charloux felt a pull that he described as, "too overwhelming too ignore," to serve his nation once again.

"I talked it over with my wife, and she agreed it was what I should do," he said. By then Charloux was a 35-year-old husband and father.

He re-entered the Army after his break in service and was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, to serve with C Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment. The unit was deployed to Muqdadiyah, Diyala Province, Iraq in October 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We were responsible for a large scope of operations," he said. "We helped to bring peace to the greater Muqdadiyah area."

In September 2007, Charloux led his squad on a raid into the town of Baloor, where his unit was ambushed.

"There were two grenade blasts pretty close, but I was fortunate my injuries weren't substantial, and I was able to get back to the fight," he said.

Charloux sustained shrapnel wounds to his arm, face, eyes and leg, but was able to successfully complete the mission. According to a White House statement, a large cache of weapons was secured, and eight al Qaeda operatives were killed. Charloux has received both the Army Commendation Medal and the National Defense Medal twice. He returned from Iraq in November 2007, and the entire 1st Cavalry Division returned in January.

In addition to the normal post-deployment briefs, Charloux said he and the other members of his unit attended, he has had to adjust to the enormous amount of attention his invitation to the State of the Union address has generated.

"Ever since we've arrived, everyone involved with the Army has been great. They've treated us like celebrities, really." Charloux added that he feels humbled by the experience. "To be chosen out of all those Soldiers at Fort Hood is an amazing feeling."

Charloux and Bobbi Jo arrived in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. They were taken on tours of several local sites, to include Arlington National Cemetery. The afternoon of the address, he and his wife met and dined with Gen. George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff, and Sgt. Maj. Of the Army, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston.

Before the president's address, Charloux, his wife, and the other honored guests and their families, attended a reception at the White House. "There were a lot of people there who were happy to see the 1st Cav being represented at the White House," he said. "People recognized the patch, and they were glad to see us there."

Charloux was afforded the opportunity to meet the president and get his photo taken with him.

"It was very quick. He shook my hand and told me that he loved the men and women in uniform," Charloux said. "We had our picture taken, and that was it. Even though it happened so fast, it was still such an honor."

Following dinner, Charloux and the other invitees were taken to the chambers of the House of Representatives to attend President George W. Bush's final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

"We were whisked away in a motorcade to the Capitol, with lights, sirens, the whole works," he said. The families, to include Bobbi Jo Charloux, watched the address from the White House.

Once in chambers, Charloux was seated directly behind the president's family (first lady Laura Bush and daughters Jenna and Barbara). Former Senator Bob Dole was behind Charloux, who said he was almost overwhelmed.

"I grew up seeing Senator Dole so often involved with the government, I felt like I knew him through television," he said. "It was just unbelievable to be sitting right in front of him and right behind the first lady - and being in the same room with the commander in chief - it was just amazing!"

Although the president never referred to any of the honored guests by name, Charloux was shown on the national television broadcast several times. "This evening, I want to speak directly to our men and women on the front lines," the president said. At that moment, the camera was on Charloux and the other service members invited to attend.

"Soldiers and sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen: In the past year, you have done everything we've asked of you, and more," the president said. "Our nation is grateful for your courage. We are proud of your accomplishments. And tonight in this hallowed chamber, with the American people as our witness, we make you a solemn pledge: In the fight ahead, you will have all you need to protect our nation."

Members on both sides of the aisle stood and applauded, and again the camera was on Charloux and his military comrades.

After the address, Charloux and the other guests returned to the White House to pick up their families. Charloux and Bobbi Jo will return to Fort Hood Wednesday. He said he would remember this trip and his experiences here forever.

"Being here, and being in the Army just brings a lot of pride," Charloux said. "I have a sense of belonging (in the Army), and it lets me give back to the great country we all live in."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16