February 05, 2017

Wounded warriors thrilled by Super Bowl trip with the vice president

Marine Staff Sgt. Tony Mannino thought the call was a mistake when he was told he was going to the Super Bowl with Vice President Mike Pence.

“I was like, `This is the White House? Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’” he said.

It likewise took some convincing until Army Staff Sgt. Frederick Manning realized his invitation wasn’t a joke.

“I barely got any sleep last night. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas,” Manning said on Air Force II as he flew to Houston Sunday. “Ever since I got the confirmation, it’s been awesome.”

Mannino, who was injured in Iraq, and Manning, who was injured in Afghanistan, were waiting in front of Air Force II Sunday afternoon when Pence walked off the Marine II helicopter with his wife, Karen, and daughter Charlotte.

“What do you think? Decent ride?” Pence said, pointing to Air Force II.

The service members had been chosen by the Defense Department for the trip. It helped that Mannino is a Patriots fan and Manning is rooting for the Falcons.

“We’ve got Falcon fans. We’ve got Patriot fans,” Pence said as he shook their hands. “They’ll be a winner on this plane on the way back.”

Pence, a supporter of the Indianapolis Colts, was strictly neutral on which team he wanted to win.

“Two great teams. I think it’s going to be a great game,” he said.

Manning, 50, brought Army Sgt. First Class Charles Stanley, a nurse at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who has been one of his caregivers.

Mannino, 33, brought his wife, Diane.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m sitting here thinking, how are we here?”

After landing in Houston, they rode in the vice presidential motorcade to Pappas BBQ restaurant.

"I heard this was the place to come," Pence said as he shook hands with Leon Whiting, the general manager.

Pence posed for selfies around the room before ordering a pulled pork sandwich with a side of BBQ sauce.

One of the diners, Angela Porter, was wearing an Indianapolis Colts shirt.

"We found a Colts fan down here," a delighted Pence said.

Porter, who lives in Wabash, Ind., was in Houston visiting a friend, Jerry White, originally of Marion, Ind.

They arrived at the restaurant about 15 minutes before Pence and his entourage of secret servicemen, aides and camera crews pulled up.

"It was shocking," Porter said of his appearance. "We didn't know what was going on."

Wearing a Super Bowl 2017 shirt, White was rooting for the Falcons because of former Colts player Dwight Freeney being on the team. White said he'd like to see Freeney win another Super Bowl ring.

As Pence left the restaurant to watch the game from the Houston Texans’ owners box, he gave Pappas a top rating.

"It was just great," he said, rubbing his stomach. "That's some Texas BBQ.”

To read full article, click here.

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