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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published February 13 2013

VIDEO: North Dakota Medal of Honor recipient declined State of Union invite

The Minot man presented Monday with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama made the unusual decision to decline the invitation of the first lady to sit beside her during the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night in Washington.

According to Capt. Dan Murphy of the North Dakota National Guard, who accompanied former Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha to Washington this week, the quiet hero gave up his box seat to history for reasons similar to why he quit the Army after nearly 12 years: his family and friends.

Tuesday was the 13th wedding anniversary of Romesha and his high school sweetheart, Tammy, who made the trip with him to Washington. She and their three children are the reason he left the Army in 2010, he said last month.

Romesha was honored Monday with the nation’s top military medal for valor for his leadership in an all-day battle in 2009 at a remote outpost in northeast Afghanistan. He clearly doesn’t enjoy the spotlight and says the Medal bestowed on him is about the soldiers he served with, eight of whom died that day.

“It’s such a great honor to be invited to the State of the Union,” Romesha, 31, told CNN. “I really feel bad about not being able to go. But a lot of these guys I haven’t seen a really long time and I’d like to hang with them just a little bit more.”

“I’ve done some soul searching,” he said. “As much as a great honor it would be to be a guest of the first lady, it’s also kind of hard to break away from the friends and the family and all the great guys here” from Black Knight Troop, who came to Washington to see Romesha honored. “I just need to spend a little more time with them.”

And he said he wanted to focus on his family.

Capt. Murphy returned to Bismarck Wednesday, but he said Romesha still has a busy week in New York: “A bunch of media stuff,” including National Hockey League games, a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and an interview with TV talk show host Rachael Ray.

Since moving to Minot, the Romeshas, both California natives, have become a big hockey fans and their oldest daughter is skating, they said last month.