Soldier represents West Virginia at presidential inauguration

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PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — At this year’s historic inauguration, one man from West Virginia got the chance to represent his home state while serving his country.

Private First Class Brian Blankenship had a front row seat to the 2021 inauguration. On Jan. 20, 2021 Blankenship got the chance to usher lawmakers and dignitaries to their seats.

“It was exhilarating. I had to wake up at 11:45 the night before to get to work at midnight the night before,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship said the first thing he did at the end of the day was call his older brother.

“All he talked about was how great it was so, everybody knows him and he’s a big part of the community,” said Billy Strickland, Blankenship’s older brother.

Both men said serving in the military runs in the family. Blankenship said he knew he wanted to serve since middle school, but at that time, playing a role in a presidential inauguration was never even a thought.

“No, I never thought that, especially going into infantry, you never think you are going to be on TV that much, but here I am,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship said a big part of why he is where he is today is due to the JROTC program at PikeView High School in Mercer County. He said 1st Sgt. Steve Compton and Master Sgt. Robert Riggs played a big role in his life, and he felt honored to represent them on an historic day.

But ultimately, Blankenship said the most meaningful part of the day was knowing his family was watching from home, since he has not seen them since the pandemic began.

“Oh it’s really cool, we were all watching it at my parents house watching it together, so it was a big thing getting to see it,” said Strickland.

“It was awesome, we are such a close-knit family that even through facetime we still get to see each other and everything, but it was just awesome knowing they were just seeing me up there they actually see what I do instead of me just telling them about it,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship said he also felt proud to represent West Virginia at the inauguration, and he hopes he will continue to make his hometown and his home state proud.

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