Gold Star Wife to Join White House Dinner

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Kim Felts, of Fayetteville, N.C., will be seated next to the first lady at dinner. Also on the guest list are about 80 Iraq war veterans and their families, and senior defense officials including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

"Those invited include men and women in uniform from all ranks, each U.S. state and territory, and every branch of the armed forces," a White House blog post [ ] said today. "Together, they are representative of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who served in Iraq."

Felts' husband, Army Col. Thomas H. Felts Sr., was killed Nov. 14, 2006, in Baghdad when an explosive detonated near his vehicle. He was 45 years old.

In an interview today, Felts, a family readiness program specialist for Special Forces Command, noted her appreciation for this high-profile tribute to service members and their families. "Any time we can take that opportunity to thank war heroes and families of the fallen for their sacrifices, we should do it," she said.

Felts' two younger children, Rebekah and Thomas, both high school students, also will attend the dinner tonight. As they prepared to board a bus to the White House, Felts noted their excitement. "They recognize this opportunity and how unique it is," she said.

In an article [ ] earlier this month, Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said the dinner is "the beginning of a thank you."

"In the East Room that night, the idea is that room will look like the America that served on the battlefields of Iraq," he said.