First Lady Melania Trump makes her first visit to Alaska

First Lady Melania Trump rolls a ball of playdough to one of the military children at JBER. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

First Lady Melania Trump spent some time in Alaska this morning. On her way back from the President’s visit to Asia, the First Lady landed to refuel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

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Mrs. Trump spent a little more than a half-hour visiting young children at a recreation center on base. The event is part of a month-long celebration of military families at JBER. Some of the children visited by Mrs. Trump have parents that are currently on combat deployments in Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division.

As a group of children showed off a 3-D printer, Mrs. Trump told them this was her first time in Alaska.

“The air is so fresh,” Trump said, adding that she had just come back from China. She asked the children a few questions about skiing and animals before moving on to a table focused on sewing.

A large crowd of people were on-hand to get a glimpse of Trump, including parents of the young pre-schoolers with whom the First Lady sat, rolling playdough in her hands and blowing on make-shift musical instruments.

First Lady Melania Trump meets with the crowd as she exits the greeting area. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

“We just found out yesterday they were the lucky ones to be chosen,” Stacy Dougherty said of the 12 children selected to sit with the First Lady — including her daughter.

“I didn’t want to miss this amazing opportunity, I wanted to get some pictures so she can remember this forever,” Dougherty said. She and a few other mothers standing nearby had arrived at the rec center about three hours before the visit got underway to make sure they had a view.

Doughterty’s husband is deployed to Afghanistan with the Army about two months ago.

Parents only learned about the First Lady’s visit the day before.

“I was a little bit nervous,” Rachael Connolly said. Her son Brandon had a seat right next to Trump, and she worried he might get overwhelmed. In the end, things went smoothly.

“He was excited,” Connolly said, though she isn’t sure the four-year-old fully appreciated the uniqueness of the visit. “To him it was just some lady coming to play with him.”

There are currently around 14,000 service members assigned to JBER, along with another 15,000 family members. Currently 1,800 service members are deployed abroad, the majority of them, around 1,200, on combat missions in Afghanistan, according to JBER spokesman Jerome Baysmore.