During the holidays several years ago, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received a mailer — more of a flyer, really — dropped into the mailbox of his second home in La Jolla, California.
The paper was an invitation to a Christmas party in the neighborhood — an event that led Romney to an unexpected meeting with one of the former Navy SEALs killed during the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi, Libya.
“This is kind of a strange story, so bear with me here,” Romney told voters in Van Meter, Iowa, today.
Standing in a windy corn field, Romney recounted how he didn’t really plan on attending to the party. Later that night, though, he noticed all the lights on at the house across the street and what he thought were party-goers glancing over at his home.
“I thought, `Oh my goodness, I wasn’t planning on going to this. But we’ll look like we’re not social if we don’t show up,” he said. “So I said to Ann, `Look, we’ve got to go to this party’.”
It turned out that the Romneys were at the wrong event. Rather than the neighborhood Christmas celebration, they had accidently crashed a family holiday.
“We were a little embarrassed, but they treated us well nonetheless and I got to meet some really interesting people,” Romney remembered, chuckling.
One of those was Glen Doherty, a Massachusetts native and former military officer who told Romney that he frequently traveled back to the Middle East to provide security services. The two chatted about events in the region, their lives, and shared love of skiing, Romney recalled.
“You can imagine how I felt when I found out that he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed,” Romney told the crowd today. “It touched me obviously as I recognized this young man that I thought was so impressive had lost his life in his service of his fellow men and women.”
The story, one of several Romney has begun integrating into his stump speech, is part of an effort by his campaign to give voters a fuller, more emotional sense of the typically private candidate.
In appearances over the past week, Romney has shared stories about other friends who have died, including a 14-year-old boy with leukemia and a graduate school friend who became a quadriplegic.
Doherty’s tale, however, had a larger message for the audience — one that Romney described as intimately linked to his own.
“This is the American way. We go where there’s trouble. We go where we’re needed,” Romney said, to applause. “And right now we are needed. Right now the American people need us.”