By Julia LeDoux, Pentagram Staff WriterJanuary 26, 2017
Army Staff Sgt. Jose Medina may be the only person on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall who can say they've shared a dance with First Lady Melania Trump.
"Back home in Puerto Rico, I'm a hot celebrity now," he said. "We are such a small country. If one of us does something big, everyone feels like we did it."
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, along with Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen, each danced with a service member at the Salute to Our Armed Services Ball held Jan. 20 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
The group danced to a rendition of the Whitney Houston hit, "I Will Always Love You," Trump danced with Navy Petty Officer Second Class Catherine Cartmell; Pence danced with Air Force Master Sgt. Tiffany Bradbury and Karen Pence danced with Marine Corps Sgt. Angel Rodriguez.
"A Coast Guardsman did the cake cutting," Medina said. "Another four guys were secondary. If anything would have happened to any of us, they would have stepped in."
Medina, 29, a Ponce, Puerto Rico, native is a human relations specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). He comes from a line of Soldiers. Medina's mother served in the Army for 26 years. His father served for 20. Medina's grandfather, uncles and cousins also served. Medina, who has been in the Army almost 10 years, was promoted to his current rank Nov. 1.
"My family is going crazy right now," he said.
Medina was originally supposed to be part of the street cordon that was to honor the Trumps and Pences when they arrived at the ball.
"I was on leave prior to New Year's, and my first sergeant called me and he said they needed a bio and photo," he said. "I'm like, what do you need it for?"
It turns out that Medina's 1st Sgt., James Barrett, had selected him to dance with the First Lady.
"I thought they were messing with me," said Medina, whose photo and bio were submitted to the Secret Service for credentialing.
"After that, I got a couple of emails from the inaugural events coordinator," he said. "We linked up at Fort McNair."
The invitation-only ball was the third and final event the Trumps attended Friday night.
"It was pretty exciting and nervous at the same time. It was an honor and privilege," said Medina. "I was still in the street cordon, so I was kind of scared I wasn't going to make both."
On Jan. 19, the night prior to the inauguration, Medina was on the joint base from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., helping finalize preparations for the street cordon.
"I didn't sleep at all," he said.
On the afternoon of Jan. 20, the four service members met on Fort McNair for final briefings and transportation to the ball.
After being given final instructions, the group was allowed to enjoy the ball before their moment in the spotlight with the Trumps and Pences.
"The only thing we couldn't do was drink, because we were on mission," said Medina.
Medina, who called himself a good dancer, said his dance with the First Lady was his "Dancing With the Stars" debut.
"The only way I was going to be able to overcome my nervousness was if I start talking to her and fade away everyone else," he said. "So I started talking to her. I asked her how her day was, because I knew it was really long."
Medina said he congratulated Mrs. Trump on becoming First Lady.
"She told me what an honor it was," he said.
Perhaps the most iconic moment of the dance was when Medina spun Mrs. Trump, to the delight of the crowd who was watching.
"I told her I was Puerto Rican and do you mind if I spin you," he said. "She smiled and said 'I'm all for it.' I heard the cue from the song. I took a step back and spun her."
The First Lady admitted to being tired when Medina asked her how she was.
"It was already midnight at that point when we were dancing," he said. "She asked my name, where I was from, about my family, if I had any kids."
Medina said he talked with the president and other members of the first family prior to going on stage.
"Ivanka Trump approached me and congratulated me on being selected," he said. "As I was shaking everybody's hand, President Trump came behind me and patted me on the shoulder."
Among the invited guests at the ball were service members and their families, veterans, first responders, wounded warriors and Medal of Honor recipients. Tony Orlando and the Josh Weathers Band provided the entertainment.
Pentagram Staff Writer Julia LeDoux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.