As the sun shone brightly on Florida, one Tampa native recently braved the freezing streets of Washington, D.C., searching for alternate routes through the massive crowd expected for next week's presidential inauguration.
Warren Judge, a 42-year-old lieutenant commander for the Coast Guard, was selected from a pool of more than 100 candidates from all branches of the military to serve as a military assistant during the historic event.
"It's very much a feather in his cap for getting that position," said Coast Guard Cmdr. John Dailey, who has known Judge for a decade. "It's a very selective process, one of those positions that we pick our best and brightest for. This is going to be something that's really going to be a shining point for the Coast Guard."
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Details of Judge's mission were sketchy last week, but he did say he will be assigned a political VIP and would be responsible for ensuring that he or she arrives on time for each event — a task that will mean muscling through congested and tricky traffic patterns.
"There are so many variables that could happen," he said by phone from his home in Maryland before heading to Washington on Jan. 5 for training. "Right now we don't know what roads are going to be closed at what particular times."
Despite the challenges and the weather, he was excited. Barack Obama will become the nation's first African-American president.
"It definitely means a lot," Judge said. "Just being a part of this history-making event for the United States."
Judge didn't always hold such an honorable position, at least not at home where he grew up playing Little League baseball in Belmont Heights.
"He was a pain in the butt," his sister Angela Judge said, laughing as she recalled her youngest sibling's childhood antics.
"He got us all in trouble," she said. "He would go to bed and rock himself to sleep while we would take the punishment. And now we have to call him sir."
His friends at King High School knew him as "Burger." (Simply put, he was known for eating a lot of hamburgers.)
"We're just regular folks from East Tampa," his sister said. "I told him, 'Kid, you didn't turn out to be a baseball star, but you're a star in your own right.' It's amazing."
Mom, Agnes Judge, said her son was a good student and an energetic young boy who played sports.
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His career in the Coast Guard began after he studied computer science for two years at the University of Florida. He left college when his mother lost her job at the technology company Honeywell. She got another job, but at a significant pay cut, Angela said.
Warren was concerned about his mother spending money on his education while making considerably less for herself, so he left UF and joined the Coast Guard at age 20.
What began as a way to pay for college turned into 22 years of service. Throughout his career, Judge has won a number of awards including two Coast Guard commendation medals, two Coast Guard achievement medals and an armed forces service medal for his work in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. He also earned his bachelor's degree in computer science and two master's degrees, one in computer science and one in system quality management.
Now the father of two has been selected as one of 30 military assistants to the inauguration, a position many consider a career highlight. In an article for the Washington Post, interviewers for the position said that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, much-sought-after job.
Since finding out he was appointed last month, Judge's schedule has been busy. Still, he managed to make it home for Christmas — a surprise that his family was not at all expecting.
Said Angela: "My mom dropped her fork."