Elaine Brye walks to the podium during preparations for the Democratic… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “Wow!” said Elaine Brye of Winona, Ohio. “What’s a mom like me doing in a place like this?”
Brye was not planning a turn on stage at the Democratic National Convention when she sat down last December to write a Christmas card to First Lady Michelle Obama. It was “just a mom-to-mom note to say thank you for caring,” Brye said Tuesday night as she introduced Obama. “The first lady not only read my letter, she invited my husband and I to the White House. It was an amazing experience."
Brye may think of herself as just a mom, but she is in fact a rather special mother. Four of her five children are military officers, one in each branch — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. “Our youngest is still in high school,” Brye said. “And yes, we’re hoping he’ll join the Coast Guard.” On the lapel of her purple dress, she wore four rhinestine pins representing each branch.
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(Ruth Ann Rinto, a friend watching the convention at home in Ohio, said three of the Brye military officers are sons; one is a daughter.)
Brye’s brief speech was among the emotional high points of the evening.
In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Brye, 57, a science teacher who spent two years in Air Force ROTC, said she was shocked when an engraved invitation arrived from the White House last March, asking her to a state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron. She and her husband, a former Air Force pilot, sat at George Clooney’s table.
In a statement to the Plain Dealer, Michelle Obama said that when she read Brye’s Christmas card, “I was moved by all that her family has contributed in service to our nation. Elaine is an inspiration to me personally, and it’s an honor and a privilege for me to have her and her husband Courtney by my side at the convention.”
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As she introduced the first lady, Brye said, “I’m not even a political person. But what I am is a military mom. … I don't know when I'm going to get them all together again because someone's always deploying. But because of Dr. [Jill] Biden and the first lady, our lives are a little bit easier. Along with President Obama, they have made helping military families a top priority….It is honor and respect in action and it warms this mother's heart.”
When the first lady took the stage moments later, she thanked Brye. “We are so grateful for your family’s service and sacrifice,” Obama said. “And we will always have your back.”