For Rock Hill native Keri Burkett Stevenson, most days with an Army husband deployed to Afghanistan are so busy - dealing with two kids and helping other families of deployed soldiers at Fort Bragg - that she doesn't have much time for meeting strangers.
Today at the Army base, Keri will make some time to meet a couple from Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
"Yes, I think we can work it in," joked Keri, 34, a Rock Hill High School graduate who met her husband, Jimmy, when both were in the Navy in the late 1990s stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"Meeting the first family - they have two kids just like us - wow! What an honor! I guess it is a long way from a little girl growing up in the Lesslie community."
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Keri's mother, Pat Ferrell of Rock Hill, is maybe more excited than her daughter.
When Ferrell found out Keri was selected to meet the Obamas during the first family's visit to the base - being the mother that she is - she gave her daughter a piece of advice: Buy a new outfit.
"Meeting the first family, the president and his wife - this is a big day," said Ferrell. "I wish I could be there."
Pat Ferrell can't be there as the president gives a speech about the end of the war in Iraq, and both Obamas talk with a few soldiers' families during the Christmas holidays about their service, because she is doing what grandmothers all over the world do - helping take care of other grandkids while parents are trying to make a living.
She talked by phone from the Walmart checkout line in Seneca, where she was minding a son's kids.
"Keri can handle it - she has always been such a tough cookie," Ferrell said of her daughter meeting the president and first lady. "Nothing bothers her."
Keri is more than tough. She's a leader of the Family Readiness Group for her husband's 82nd Airborne Division, combat aviation brigade. She has helped other families get through the worst of wars - the deaths of two soldiers.
She has driven pregnant wives of soldiers to hospitals while their husbands were fighting in cold Afghanistan caves. She has cooked and cleaned for other wives and mothers of small kids, shopped for others, sacrificed for others.
Jimmy, a chief warrant officer, has been deployed twice to Afghanistan, after an earlier deployment to Iraq. As a medical evacuation helicopter pilot and team leader, Jimmy's duties take him into the harshest places of the wars - and he must lead.
Young soldiers call 37-year-old Jimmy "Deacon," because he's the one that 19-year-olds go to for advice on dealing with combat and separation from family.
Jimmy always puts his soldiers first, said Keri.
"We believe in our mission, which is to be there for others," Keri said.
Still, Keri - whose father and stepmother, Darrell and Frankie Burkett, still live in Rock Hill, as do her mother and stepfather, Pat and Dick Ferrell - finds time to home-school their son Baylee (named for Guantanamo Bay, where the couple met) and daughter Madison.
Both the kids are autistic and are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program at Fort Bragg. Extended family helps with a walk each year to raise money for autism research.
"Family always comes first for us, and our family is the whole unit that Jimmy is in," Keri said. "I wouldn't be where I am without a great family. We always try to support every wife, every child, who has a soldier deployed."
Darrell Burkett said he's proud of his daughter as a wife and mother.
"She's quite a lady, and although she is my daughter, she deserves an honor like this, to be recognized by the president," Darrell Burkett said. "She gives so much to others."
The family knows more than a little bit about how important faith is, too - Dick Ferrell's father and stepmother lost their home in the Nov. 16 tornado that killed three people south of Rock Hill. The Ferrells survived with minor injuries.
The Stevensons recently were named Fort Bragg's military family of the year, a recognition from the Army for their commitment to others at the post.
A major, writing about the family, talked about how both Jimmy and Keri volunteer to help younger soldiers get through difficult times, their creation of a Sunday School class for military kids with special needs, their work with the hungry and homeless.
But the family is so modest, major wrote, he probably missed something the Stevensons do.
Keri thought the whirlwind of attention for selection as base family of the year was over, then out of the blue late Monday, Keri learned that she - and hopefully both kids - will meet the Obamas today.
"Jimmy won't be here to meet them, but that is the whole point - he is serving in Afghanistan," Keri said. "He can't get home for Christmas to be with us. But the Obamas seem like people who have a strong family, just like us.
"They are coming to honor families - and for us in the Army, the whole family of soldiers and wives and kids comes first."