Obama calls local soldier on Christmas

Army Pfc. Patrick Kornegay, an Alabaster native currently stationed in Kuwait, received a call from President Barack Obama on Christmas Day. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A few minutes before Shelby County welcomed Christmas Day, an Alabaster native and U.S. Army private first class stationed on the other side of the planet started off his morning with a conversation with America’s leader.

Army Pfc. George “Patrick” Kornegay, who is stationed in Kuwait, received a call from President Barack Obama at about 8:45 a.m. Kuwait time on Dec. 25, which was about 11:45 p.m. on Dec. 24 in Shelby County.

“He actually texted us and told us he was on hold and was about to talk with the president of the United States,” said Kornegay’s mother, Paula, who lives in Alabaster. “He was so happy. It really made his Christmas a lot more special.”

Patrick Kornegay was one of only two Army personnel in the world called by the president on Christmas Day. Kornegay was nominated for the call by his commanding officers, and is among the relatively few Army personnel who have not yet returned home from the Iraqi conflict.

“All the soldiers have come home from Iraq except the 4,000 who are completing their deployment in Kuwait,” Kornegay said. “Everyone thinks all the soldiers have come home from Iraq, but they haven’t.”

Paula Kornegay said because of the sometimes difficult task of calling an Army base in Kuwait, her son wasn’t sure he was going to speak with Obama until he got the call.

“His commanding officers notified him about the call, but he wasn’t sure the day before Christmas,” Paula Kornegay said, noting Patrick Kornegay got up at 3:15 a.m. Kuwait time to begin waiting for the call. “They told him the president would call first to make sure the connection was good.”

After Patrick Kornegay picked up the phone, Obama wished he and his family a merry Christmas. The president then asked Patrick Kornegay about his deployment and his service in the Army.

“Patrick responded that they had worked as a team in accomplishing the mission at hand, and finishing strong in Iraq,” Paula Kornegay said.

Obama and Kornegay then spoke about Kornegay’s guitar-playing hobby before the president asked Kornegay about his allegiance in Alabama’s heated Iron Bowl rivalry.

“Patrick answered with a big War Eagle!” Paula Kornegay wrote in a recap of the phone call. “The president wished Auburn well during this next year.

“He ended the conversation with thanking Patrick for his service and thanking our family. They wished each other a merry Christmas and ended the conversation,” she wrote. “He told us that he could now check that off of his list, that he had talked with the president, and that the president had called him!”

Patrick Kornegay is scheduled to return to Alabaster during his leave in March, during which he will marry Erin Manus. After the wedding, he will return to Kuwait to complete his year deployment.

“It’s such a great story, and I attribute all of this to God,” Paula Kornegay said. “God has blessed Patrick in so many ways.”