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Vice President Mike Pence takes two wounded servicemembers to the Super Bowl

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Posted at 11:23 AM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-06 12:31:42-05

HOUSTON -- Vice President Mike Pence took along two wounded service members on his trip to Super Bowl 51 Sunday.

Pence brought along his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Charlotte, along with two service members and their guests. 

Marine Staff Sgt. Anthony Mannino Jr., who is a Patriots fan, and Army Staff Sgt. Frederick Manning, who is a Falcons fan, joined Pence for the historic game.

Mannino was injured in Iraq in 2008 and Manning was injured in Afghanistan in 2016. Both were chosen by the Defense Department to go on the trip. Mannino brought his wife and Manning brought Army Sgt. First Class Charlges Stanley, a nurse who has been taking care of him.

Pence said his team is the Indianapolis Colts and that he was "on neutral soil" during the trip.

Pence told Mannino and Manning the trip is a “small token of the gratitude of the people of this county.”

“We’re honored you’re with us,” Pence said.

The group flew to Houston on Air Force 2 Sunday afternoon, returning in the overnight hours of early Monday morning. They sat inside the owner's box. 

Pence and his family sat in the owner's box, while the service members  sat in the COO's suite. 

The group did, however, leave the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter, missing a lot of the excitement of the Patriots comeback.

Below is a transcript from the pool report of the conversation with the service members on their way to the game:

Q: How did you find out you were going?
Tony Mannino Jr.: We heard about it this week. We almost didn’t believe it at first. It was really surprising.  I was fortunate enough to also attend the vice president’s inaugural dinner.  I was blown away with the experience.  I was very honored to show up and support the event. And then to wind up to be honored there was incredible, I didn’t know that it was going to be like that. All the wounded warriors that were there (were honored). I believe there were 60 of us that showed up. It was just really nice, to be on the receiving end. We work so hard for so many years. We’d do it without even getting paid. We’d do it for nothing. We’re just proud to serve. Then to be invited on a trip like this. I was literally driving back up to New York, my wife was up there, she’s trying to get some things ready with the house. I was like, this is the White House? Are you sure you’ve got the right person? My command hadn’t said anything to be about it.  They had mentioned an event was happening. So to get the call was very surprising.  I said yes very quickly. I was like, absolutely. Count me in.

Q. Are you a big football fan?
Tony:  We are. We are very big football fans. Sports fan in general. The Super Bowl is really amazing. I would never dream that something like this would happen, especially to be invited by the vice president. We’re just very grateful, very honored to be a part of this.
We’re from NY, from the Long Island area.

Q. I saw you were wearing the Patriots gear. Why that and not the Jets or the Giants?
Tony:  We’ve got to represent the New England area.  But my wife is a very big Giants fan..
Diane (who was wearing a Giants green dress): I am a Giants fan. This is like the grace of God. I’m just so humbled. It’s just a miracle to be here. From where he came from to where we’re standing right now is just God’s work. It’s a true blessing.

Q. What do you think of the plane?
Diane: It’s amazing! I’m sitting here thinking, how are we here? How did we get this? How did it happen?
Tony: It’s very surreal.
Diane: Surreal and grateful.  Truly, truly honored.

Q. How were you injured?
Tony:  Initially I was exposed to a few explosions in Iraq back in 2007 and 2008. …? Concussion? I was also struck by a pickup truck when I was running when I was stationed in Hawaii in 2013, which was another head injury that also affected my shoulder, my back, which is all caused to lead to different surgeries. I was trying to stay on active duty. I was with recruiting command up in New York. Right after I got off active duty, I was a reservist only for about 3 months when they recalled me to be back on active duty and do the recruiting piece. But with the demand of the appointments, the surgeries that were coming up, they transferred me down to Walter Reed to be on the Wounded Warrior battalion  down there. They have been excellent….They took all kinds of brain scans, they really broke down what traumatic brain injury is, why I’ve been affected certain ways. They brought my wife in for a lot of the appointments. It really ended up being a whole body, whole wellness program. It’s really helped to get a lot of different medications, help with the migraines. The primary issue was the traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, deal with some nerve damage from being hit by the truck….the guy who was driving a pick-up truck just wasn’t looking….To be hit by a truck, it’s pretty lucky to even survive. It was disabling, the fact that I had a really hard time walking for the first few months….my family was on board to getting me down to Wounded Warriors to get me help.

Q: How did you find out you were going?
Frederick Manning: I was taking some lessons on the computer and I was approached. I was called into the office and I was asked, did I want to attend the Super Bowl? What do I need to do? I thought it was a joke. I was given the details and I said I would love to. It is quite an honor.

Q. Are you from Georgia?
I was born and raised in south Florida and I currently live in south Georgia.

Q.  Why did you decide to bring one of your caregivers?
Frederick: He’s a noncommissioned officer and so am I. We look out for each other. That’s just what we do.

Q. Do you have any wagers on the game?
Tony: I think the loser might be going home wearing the opposite team’s gear today.

Q. How many times were you downrange?
Frederick: I was downrange three times. That was my third time.
I was in Iraq in 06 and 07

Q. How long have you been in the service?
Frederick: 27 years

Q. How old are you?
Frederick: 50
Tony: 14 years (in the service); 33 (years old)
I was downrange technically for one continuous deployment….in 2007 and 2008.

Q. Have you been to the Super Bowl before?
Tony: Definitely not. This is a dream.

Q. What do you think of the Falcons’ season this year?
Frederick: It’s awesome. You’ve got one of the best receivers out there.

Q. What are you going to tell your friends about what AF2 was like or what the VP was like?
Frederick:  It’s going to be awesome. Hopefully, I can get that out. I barely got any sleep last night. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas. Ever since I got the confirmation, it’s been awesome.