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President honors Utah Air Guardsman and others at White House dinner

Master Sgt. Kevin Bullivant, 151st Civil Engineer Squadron, and his girlfriend Kathy Blanchard pose with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at a White House dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama on Feb. 29, 2012. More than 70 service members who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation New Dawn and families were recognized at the event entitled, "A Nation's Gratitude Dinner.”  Bullivant was an explosive ordinance disposal specialist who received two Bronze Stars in Iraq, and was also submitted for a Purple Heart. Bullivant was one of two Air National Guard members recognized at the event.  (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo/Released)

Master Sgt. Kevin Bullivant, 151st Civil Engineer Squadron, and his girlfriend Kathy Blanchard pose with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at a White House dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama on Feb. 29, 2012. More than 70 service members who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation New Dawn and families were recognized at the event entitled, "A Nation's Gratitude Dinner.” Bullivant was an explosive ordinance disposal specialist who received two Bronze Stars in Iraq, and was also submitted for a Purple Heart. Bullivant was one of two Air National Guard members recognized at the event. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo/Released)

SALT LAKE CITY -- Master Sgt. Kevin Bullivant, a member of the 151st Civil Engineer Squadron, was one of two Air National Guardsmen from across the country invited to attend a White House dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama on February 29. The event, entitled "A Nation's Gratitude Dinner," was held to recognize the significant contributions of the men and women in uniform who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation New Dawn, and the families who supported them.

Bullivant, an explosive ordinance disposal specialist, was the recipient of two Bronze Stars and has been submitted for a Purple Heart. Bullivant served in Iraq in 2007-2008, and in Afghanistan in 2011 where he was wounded.

During the event, Bullivant attended a reception, toured the White House, took photos with dignitaries, including President Obama, and met with service members from all branches of the military. Of the many highlights of the night, one that stands out was having the opportunity to hear stories from other service members.

"The coolest part of the event was getting to meet the other service members and hearing their stories, as well as hearing the words of the president and vice president, in person, commemorating the end of the war, and celebrating and remembering the sacrifices that everyone has made," he added.

He also said that comments from keynote speakers and higher authorities put things into perspective for him.

"When you hear the numbers that 4,500 people have died, and 30 thousand were wounded, it puts the overall impact into perspective," said Bullivant.

"I also had the opportunity to speak with the Army Chief of Staff and hear his vision on how things are going to press forward through budget cuts and other trials...which was very interesting and rewarding to hear."

Overall, Bullivant said that the experience was a great opportunity that he was glad to have the chance to go.

"It was definitely an experience," he added. "I've never done anything like that in my career."

Eight Air and Army National Guardsmen attended the event, along with more than 70 other members of the Active-Duty military and Reserves. Bullivant was one of two Utahans to attend the event.