Locals meet would-be first lady

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By Don Pace

Las Vegan Natasha Martinez-Padilla says her meeting with Michelle Obama has left a lasting impression. She found the would-be first lady to be warm, caring and down to earth.

“I could tell you the good things and the bad things about my husband, and she did the same thing. She told us she and Barack are not perfect; they are just like everyone else,” Martinez-Padilla said. “But they are dedicated to the people of the United States, and I think that’s remarkable.”

Natasha and her husband, Eric, were among a handful of Las Vegans who met with Obama last week in Santa Fe during a campaign visit to the state.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s wife brought together veterans and their families in an informal gathering to get their insights on how veterans are treated when they are facing the enemy and when they leave the battlefield.

“It’s near impossible sometimes for veterans’ families or soldiers themselves to get information on insurance coverage, much less benefits. That’s normal, unless you can have a colonel or a general call them, that’s the only way you’re going to get something done. Michelle was very sympathetic to our needs, and we all shed tears together over the neglect vets and their families are experiencing,” Martinez-Padilla said.

Martinez-Padilla said she has never been a political activist. But after experiencing all the red tape from the bureaucracy while her husband was in Iraq, she said she is sensitive to what politicians promise and what they do.

“(John) McCain knows what it’s like to be at war, but Barack (Obama) is trying to figure out not only what it’s like to be at war, but taking care of soldiers when they come back and not just leaving them to fend for themselves,” Martinez-Padilla said. “That means a lot because there are a lot of soldiers coming home who are not in the right state of mind.”

“Sen. McCain didn’t vote for the GI Bill for the 21st Century. That was very shocking to me, his being a veteran and not wanting this bill to get passed. So many families could be helped and right now they’re not,” Martinez-Padilla said.

Martinez-Padilla said the first thing Obama did when she was introduced to her husband was thank him for his service. She said the first thing one notices when meeting the heel-wearing, would-be first lady is her height.

“Eric is a pretty tall guy. He’s over 6 feet, 1 inch, and she towered over him. He was looking straight up as he was shaking her hand,” Martinez-Padilla said with a chuckle.

Martinez-Padilla said she likes to think she is an educated voter and cares about the issues, but she has never knocked on doors on a candidate’s behalf.

“She is very personable — she got me to open up really quick. It was like talking to your best girlfriend,” Martinez-Padilla said.