With cane in hand and braces on his knees, retired Army Col. Michael Malone walked the shiny black and white marble tiles of the Capitol building’s National Statutory Hall.

It was hours before the July 4 concert and fireworks show and the building was closed for the holiday. But Malone was one of dozens of wounded veterans and their families invited to watch the celebration and pyrotechnical display from the historic building’s west terrace. As the rain fell outside, he and his wife Jennifer wandered the room filled with statues of presidents and dignitaries, stopping every so often to read the plaques on the effigies.

A view of the Blue Angels' Independence Day flyover against the Washington Monument as seen by the Wounded Warrior Project guests from the West Terrace of the US Capitol, Washington, DC, July 4, 2019. (Rachel Lincoln of Lincoln Photography)
A view of the Blue Angels' Independence Day flyover against the Washington Monument as seen by the Wounded Warrior Project guests from the West Terrace of the US Capitol, Washington, DC, July 4, 2019. (Rachel Lincoln of Lincoln Photography)

“I suffered a brain injury a few years ago, and I’m still being treated at Walter Reed," said Malone. "I got sick on my last tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Being invited to the Capitol, it’s such a great experience. I’ve never been here before. We’ve both been to the Mall, but never been inside the building.”

Malone and his wife were brought to the Capitol by the Wounded Warrior Project. They and the others invited from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, were treated as guests of honor as part of an annual tradition that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., instituted in her first term with the gavel in 2007.

Retired Army Col. Michael Malone and wife Jennifer Malone enter the U.S. Capitol as part of an event honoring Wounded Warrior Project veterans, July 4, 2019. (Kristine Froeba)
Retired Army Col. Michael Malone and wife Jennifer Malone enter the U.S. Capitol as part of an event honoring Wounded Warrior Project veterans, July 4, 2019. (Kristine Froeba)

“On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the birth of our nation and honor the generations of brave men and women in uniform who have fought to preserve our independence,” said Pelosi. “Welcoming our courageous wounded warriors and their families to the Capitol each Fourth of July is a small token of gratitude for their service and sacrifice, and for all they have done to safeguard the blessings of liberty for all Americans.”

Upon arrival, the veterans and their families were greeted by a receiving line of service members assigned to the White House who volunteered to meet them. The families were then each assigned a red coated Capitol guide as a personal escort.

Banquet luncheon for invited members of the Wounded Warrior Project at the U.S. Capitol on July 4 2019. (Kristine Froeba)
Banquet luncheon for invited members of the Wounded Warrior Project at the U.S. Capitol on July 4 2019. (Kristine Froeba)

Cpl. Colm Grove and Sgt. Isaiah Angeli, of Marine Corps Base Quantico, were the first faces many veterans saw when they entered the Capitol building.

“We love the event, and we love the people here, and we want to give back because the Marine Corps has given us so much,” said Angeli.

The veterans and their families were given individual private tours, a luncheon, and then escorted to either the Speaker’s Balcony or the Capitol’s West Terrace as special guests of honor. There, the families mixed with Senate and House members, congressional families and their guests and given prime seating to take in the view of the Mall, concert and fireworks.

The West Terrace view of two Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia performing a flyover of the Capitol dome during the July 4, 2019, celebrations in Washington. (Rachel Lincoln)
The West Terrace view of two Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia performing a flyover of the Capitol dome during the July 4, 2019, celebrations in Washington. (Rachel Lincoln)

“This is amazing to see all this, to be here today, especially on the Fourth,” said retired Army Maj. Peter Way.

Way attended the event with wife Ann, his daughter, 2nd Lt. Laura Way, and her boyfriend, 2nd Lt. Samuel Powell, both Army officers. Way said his son couldn’t make it because he was in Colorado attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Retired Army Maj. Peter Way attended the event with his wife Ann, daughter, 2nd Lt. Lara Way, and her boyfriend, 2nd Lt. Samuel Powell, both Army officers. (Kristine Froeba).
Retired Army Maj. Peter Way attended the event with his wife Ann, daughter, 2nd Lt. Lara Way, and her boyfriend, 2nd Lt. Samuel Powell, both Army officers. (Kristine Froeba).

Special rooms with TV monitors and earplugs were set aside as comfort rooms for service members with PTSD or other disabilities so they could have a quiet space away from the sounds of artillery and fireworks if needed.

A Wounded Warrior Project family partakes in a private tour of the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2019. (Kristine Froeba)
A Wounded Warrior Project family partakes in a private tour of the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2019. (Kristine Froeba)

Retired Army Capt. Luis R. Avila and his wife, Claudia, seated on the Capitol Speaker’s Balcony, said they were having a great time as they sipped punch surrounded by family. Avila served five tours of duty before he was injured in 2011 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Avila is well-known in the wounded veteran community and was the 2017 honoree of the Faces of Valor charitable organization.

Cpl. Colm Grove, Marine Corps Base Quantico, welcomes retired Army Capt. Luis Avila as he enters the U.S. Capitol. Avila, a member of the Wounded Warrior Project was invited to tour the Capitol and watch the July 4, 2019, celebrations from the Speaker's Balcony. (Kristine Froeba)
Cpl. Colm Grove, Marine Corps Base Quantico, welcomes retired Army Capt. Luis Avila as he enters the U.S. Capitol. Avila, a member of the Wounded Warrior Project was invited to tour the Capitol and watch the July 4, 2019, celebrations from the Speaker's Balcony. (Kristine Froeba)

Claudia Avila joked that her husband, a regular at the July 4 festivities, was concerned about his viewing position.

“He is worried his fans will be worried that he’s not down there on the Mall and in the rain, because every July 4 concert he’s down there, in front for everybody to see,” she said.

A view of the Mall and Independence Day fireworks as seen by the Wounded Warrior guests from the West Terrace of the US Capitol in Washington on July 4, 2019. (Rachel Lincoln of Lincoln Photography)
A view of the Mall and Independence Day fireworks as seen by the Wounded Warrior guests from the West Terrace of the US Capitol in Washington on July 4, 2019. (Rachel Lincoln of Lincoln Photography)

The Wounded Warrior Project

The Wounded Warrior Project assists veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound while serving in the military on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

View of the Mall and Independence Day fireworks as seen by the Wounded Warrior Project guests from the West Terrace of the US Capitol in Washington on July 4, 2019. (Rachel Lincoln of Lincoln Photography)
View of the Mall and Independence Day fireworks as seen by the Wounded Warrior Project guests from the West Terrace of the US Capitol in Washington on July 4, 2019. (Rachel Lincoln of Lincoln Photography)