Since 1981 the White House Historical Association has released a new Official White House Christmas Ornament for the holiday season. It sequentially recognizes our nation’s presidents and tells a historic story of their presidential term. This year’s product has a military presence and is intended to show respect and appreciation for veterans and those who serve.
The ornament is an intricately-crafted helicopter to represent the VCH-34 Army helicopter and HMX-1 Marine helicopter, which are the two executive flight helicopters that President Eisenhower used regularly. Although he served as a five-star general in the United States Army, he chose to use both helicopters so as not to show preference between branches.
Onlookers don’t usually give much thought when the president takes off and lands on the south lawn of the White House, but the 34th President of the United States was the first to brave this feat. The 2019 ornament, in his honor, acknowledges his innovation and the fact that he started this tradition.
Stewart McLaurin, president of the Association since 2014 says, “Until we started working on this ornament I didn’t know that Eisenhower was the first to take off and land on the south lawn. It’s a great reminder of his presidency and those who serve our country. It’s very patriotic but also a historic tribute.”
Opening each ornament is like unraveling a gift loaded with valuable traces of history. The box includes a booklet detailing the moments of Eisenhower’s term that impacted the country, along with rarely known facts about his life. There are also photos of the president landing on the south lawn and landing on board the USS Des Moines in 1959.
In recent months, the Association has held military events to highlight Eisenhower’s ornament. In September, city officials and members of Congress gathered at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where Eisenhower’s Army helicopter is held. The October event was held in Quantico, Virginia, home of HMX-1.
Because of the particular connection the 2019 ornament has to the military, the Association has its first ornament corporate sponsor in Lockheed Martin. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, has made the presidential helicopter since 1957, making it a natural partnership with Lockheed Martin, its parent company.
“It’s nice to have their support and affirmation,” McLaurin acknowledges.
For many Americans, acquiring the ornament has become a holiday tradition.
“There’s a national following of people who collect them and give them as gifts. I’ve learned from my own experience that once you start giving them, people expect to receive the next one the next year. Some people will get one from the year of their friend’s birth as a gift. We continue to make them so if you come into our shop or go to our website you can buy ornaments all the way back to 1981,” McLaurin said..
To add this patriotic reminder to your tree or to start a collection, visit https://www.whitehousehistory.org/2019.Read comments