ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, April 14, 2009) - More than a thousand military children and their parents participated in Monday's Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House.

Children who lost a parent in Iraq or Afghanistan rode the "TAPS Easter Express" to the White House after a lunch provided by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Five hundred National Guard families from five states attended the Egg Roll. Three buses full of Soldiers and their families left Fort Bragg, N.C., en route to the nation's capital at 4 a.m. Monday.

"I saw some smiling faces when I got on the buses this morning," said Maj. Richard Harrison, 3-4th Air Defense Artillery and officer in charge of the troops from Fort Bragg. "The parents were just as excited as the children..."

Activities at the White House included live musical performances by Fergie, Ziggy Marley and others, cooking with celebrity chefs in the Kid's Kitchen, readings at the Storytime Stage, dance, yoga and jump rope workshops, an Easter egg hunt and traditional Easter egg roll.

"They all had a blast," Harrison said of the kids who returned to the buses at the White House in the afternoon. "It was very gracious of the first lady to offer military families at Fort Bragg this opportunity."

Harrison also said the Fort Bragg installation and community came together in a hurry to provide the logistical support to bring the families to the White House and "make the dream happen."

In all, more than 30,000 people from 45 states and the District of Columbia received tickets for this year's Egg Roll event, according to the White House, after offering tickets via the Internet for the first time. This year's theme, "Let's go play," was intended to encourage America's youth to lead healthy and active lives.

"This was our first time attending the White House Easter Egg Roll, and the kids were very excited to go," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Vogel, who works at the National Guard Bureau. "The experience was a little overwhelming for the kids, because of the large amount of people that were given tickets."

As part of the theme, all of the activities at this year's event taught children about the fun ways to exercise their body and mind.

"The kids did enjoy actually being at the White House and getting to see Sasha and Malia's new playground equipment, the basketball court and listening to Ziggy Marley," Vogel said. "They also thought it was cool to get their picture taken with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor."

Children were also given a souvenir Easter egg. This year's egg is the greenest egg in history, according to the White House Web site. It is made from hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which means that the wood comes from environmentally and socially sustainably managed forests.

First Lady Dolly Madison began the tradition of Easter egg rolling in Washington, when local children joined her for an egg roll at the Capitol in 1814. In the following years, the children apparently made quite a mess, which prompted Congress to pass the Turf Protection Law in 1876 banning the use of the Capitol lawn as a playground.

Bad weather kept everyone indoors in 1877, so there was no need to enforce the law, but in 1878 children stood outside the gates of the White House until President Rutherford B. Hayes invited them onto the grounds to continue the egg roll tradition on the South Lawn.