Norwalk resident Tonya Corbin admitted she and her husband, Marine Cpl. Todd Corbin, were nervous when they met President George Bush during a White House breakfast Monday.
Todd Corbin, a Marine reserve, was one of 12 officers being honored with the Navy Cross, the second highest award in the Marine Corps. He saved the lives of several men in his unit during a May 7, 2006 attack in Iraq.
"It was a very elite group to be at the White House," Tonya said, referring to a dozen members of the Army also being honored. "Each one of their stories was amazing."
During the breakfast, Bush spoke for about 10 minutes and expressed his appreciation for the soldiers' dedication in serving their country. The Corbins had their picture taken with the president and talked to him very briefly.
"He was very busy, but he did take time to speak with us," said Tonya, a Norwalk native who now works with the Perkins Police Department.
She described her time in the White House as an honor, speaking directly to someone she sees on television all the time. "I talked to him more than (my husband) did actually," she said. "I asked (Bush) how he was doing. He said I was the first person to do that. People were kind of shy."
Todd Corbin is the only Ohio resident who is a Navy Cross recipient. His wife said other Marines who were honored Monday were originally from the Buckeye state, but have moved to other states.
Corbin, 33, is a 1993 graduate of Willard High School. He joined the Huron County Sheriff's Office about 10 years ago as a corrections officer before becoming a full-time deputy. Corbin joined the military in 2001.
After the breakfast, Bush and the crowd went to Arlington Cemetery where the president laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Corbin's wife said it was a treat seeing many senators, such as Bob Dole as well as First Lady Laura Bush.
"The Secret Service was all over the place," the Norwalk woman added. "It was a very nice experience."
An issue of time, pay
An issue has been made about Todd Corbin's pay from both the Marines and sheriff's office for his military training one weekend a month. He also is being deployed June 9 to Australia for three weeks of annual training.
Corbin has 176 hours allotted from the sheriff's office for military training. The 176 hours is the maximum time allowed through the Ohio Revised Code.
Sheriff Richard Sutherland said Corbin reached the 176 hour mark over the weekend and will need to request personal or vacation time to be paid by his office for the rest of this year's training. Sutherland stressed that he is not forcing Corbin to take vacation time.
Other possibilities is for Corbin to work on his days off or make arrangements to work extra time.
"This isn't the first year this has happened," Tonya said.
Sutherland approved Corbin to have four days off to meet the president when the deputy made the request through a supervisor. He said there was "never an issue at all" about Corbin getting the time off, but rather how and under whose authority the deputy would be paid for the rest of his 2007 military training.
"The funny thing is Todd is not even complaining," the sheriff added. "Whatever I have to do as sheriff that I legally can do I will do to see that Todd Corbin is treated fairly.
"Todd does everything by the book," Sutherland said. "He's a top-notch young man."
Corbin's wife said her husband will be making arrangements to be paid, noting that the Marines pay Corbin less than the sheriff's office. She said Corbin will fulfill both his professional and military obligations and will return to being a deputy after being deployed June 9.
"If it's gotten straightened out by that time, that's great," she continued. "Just because his hours are up doesn't mean he quits being a Marine."
Sutherland called Corbin the most decorated deputy in his 30 years with the sheriff's office. Retired Sheriff's Capt. David DeWitt, who was part of the Air Force, was the last deputy involved in the military reserves.