Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

First lady pays tribute to Harry

Prince Harry tours an anti-landmine photography exhibition by The Halo Trust charity in Washington, DC

Prince Harry received a welcome reserved for pop stars when his tour of the America began - and a glowing tribute from first lady Michelle Obama.

Hundreds of screaming women greeted him on Washington's Capitol Hill when he attended an event promoting the Halo Trust, an anti-landmine charity he supports.

And when he was announced as a surprise guest at a White House tea reception honouring military mothers he received a standing ovation and more whoops of delight from US servicewomen and their children.

The seven-day visit is the Prince's first to America since he caused outrage by being photographed naked during a weekend break in Las Vegas last year.

He was a surprise guest whose attendance had been kept secret from the 170 invited mothers, grandmothers and youngsters. As the Prince walked into the White House's east room Mrs Obama told her guests "Well, surprise" to cheers.

The first lady added: "It is an honour to welcome Prince Harry to the White House today. As you all may know, Prince Harry is a captain in the Army Air Corps in the British Armed Forces."

This reference to Harry's role in the military received a loud cheer from the guests and Mrs Obama went on to highlight his career, saying: "In January he returned from his second deployment to Afghanistan. He has spent much of his time supporting our wounded warriors and the families of our fallen. This weekend he will be attending the 4th Annual Warrior Games at Colorado Springs. We are absolutely thrilled he could be with us today. He just arrived in DC. He only has a limited time here. But when he heard about this tea and all of you, he wanted to be here to personally thank you for all your service."

Mrs Obama and Dr Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, hosted the White House event in honour of military mothers. It was part of their Joining Forces project, a nationwide initiative launched in 2011 to encourage Americans to support and provide opportunities for the military and their families.

Before Harry was introduced to the military mothers he had joined their children who were making Mother's Day goody bags in the White House's state dining, filling them with bouquets of roses, edible salted dough jewellery and baked crisps. With Mother's Day traditionally held on the second Sunday of May in America, the children were busy at work.

But the Prince, who is a self confessed big kid at heart, soon joined in bending down to talk to the children and pulling faces and joking with the youngsters. At one point Mrs Obama joked that the parents were getting "a couple of minutes of free babysitting".

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