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Utahns attending — and absent from — Obama’s big day



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Jason Arballo, 25, is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard’s honor guard and as such helped escort guests to their seats. A native of American Fork, he agreed that not many people in his hometown are Obama fans, but says he is politically neutral.

"Whoever it is is my boss. You got to support him," he said. Arballo’s wife Holly and his four-month old daughter Charlee watched comfortably from their temporary home in Arlington, Va., where he often participates in military funerals.

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Staff Sgt. Brian Rust, from Vernal, is a spokesman for the United States Marine Band and was "thrilled to be a part" of the American tradition, while his colleagues played patriotic tunes just below the presidential podium.

The Public Health Service’s Slade Flitton, of Cottonwood Heights, was stationed close to the podium to assist anyone with a medical condition.

Students on the Mall • Sabey Lefler, a 17-year-old senior at Logan High School who traveled to Washington to perform with her school choir, said she doesn’t follow politics much but was struck by the exuberant, patriotic crowd.

"Just to see so many people in one place supporting the country whether they were for or against Obama, was a special thing to me," she said, adding it was amazing "to see everyone just loving America."

Lefler was one of 133 students from the Cache Valley school who pounced on a National Mall spot just 15 minutes before police shut the gates. A first time visitor to Washington, Lefler was decked out in five layers of clothes to face the bitter cold weather and woke up in the pre-dawn hours to reach her group’s unticketed spot.

"Looking back, I’d say it was worth it," she said.

Logan High Band Director Chris Rasmussen said, he too, was emotional about witnessing history, especially with the backdrop of the Capitol and various marbled buildings.


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"What a majestic place to see what just happened," Rasmussen said.

Sam Johnson, 21, was part of the 30 choir students from Salt Lake Community College who came to D.C. to participate in an inaugural music festival and attend the president’s swearing in.

"This trip has been very good for me because it combines my majors and my two passions, music and political science," he said.

Johnson is a Democratic activist and he estimated that about 10 of the SLCC group were Obama supporters. He said the students stood about a half mile from the inaugural stage, watching the event from large video screens on either side of the National Mall. Johnson described the crowd as happy and hopeful, though it was hard to hear the president speak.

"I’m going to end up re-reading it," he said.



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