By J.G. Noll
Yesterday, the Vice President, Second Lady, and Ivanka Trump greeted military families at a tea held in honor of Military Appreciation Month. Most families left with photos and memories of the event; however, one military kid became a viral sensation after the Huffington Post published video of the child’s unusual encounter with Vice President Mike Pence.
In the video, a boy in a white shirt stands at Pence’s side while he speaks to the group. During the remarks, Pence spreads his arms to the side and accidentally bumps the boy’s face. Throughout the rest of the video, the boy follows behind Pence as he greets children, politely asking for an apology. The Vice President eventually apologizes, saying, “Oh, I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to bop you.”
The video brought immediate reactions from conservatives and liberals, trolls and conspiracy theorists and has been viewed, after less than 24 hours, more than one million times. Everyone has an opinion about the video. . . but we wanted to get to know the kid behind the bop.
We reached out to Ingrid Herrera-Yee, the mother of Michael, the boy in the white shirt. Herrera-Yee’s name might be familiar–she’s the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Spouse of the Year.
Michael is a ten-year-old military child in the fifth grade. On the autism spectrum, Michael was nonverbal for the first half of his life, learning how to speak around age five. He also has other medical diagnoses, including nearly fatal seizures. He experienced PCSing and bullying related to moving and his medical conditions.
Fascinated with history, Michael was thrilled to get the chance to see “the people’s house” as he calls it, for himself. Michael was in awe of everything happening around him. From meeting the BOTUS– Bunny of the United States–to treats of ice cream, brownies, and lemonade, the day was one of excitement. At one point, the military children were called to the front of the room, and his mom encouraged him to go up, too. “He was particularly taken by Vice President Pence,” Herrera-Yee said.
While explaining the series of events, Herrera-Yee laughed: “This [Michael’s actions] is totally him. This is him with anyone. This is what he does with his brothers, his friends, just about anyone he meets.”
His sense of dry humor and his insistence on being polite–and showing others that he has manners–were the driving forces behind the encounter. “So for him it was just a matter of, ‘You bonked me in the head, you should apologize for that because that’s what everyone does; that’s what you’re supposed to do.'”
She emphasized that there was no political bent or any ulterior motives when it came to the exchange. “Anyone who knows him [and saw the video] was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s just Michael.'”
Michael and his mom thought nothing of it. . . until later that night they saw the video online. Michael “dissolved into tears,” Herrera-Yee says. He was consumed with worry that he would become a negative internet meme and that people would make fun of him.
After a long conversation with his mom, Michael came to terms with his sudden stardom, although he was confused how anyone could have heard what he said–he wasn’t wearing a microphone. Today, he went to school and spoke about his trip to the White House and his teacher showed the video to the class. They made the choice to ensure that students could view it under adult supervision in case anyone had questions. Herrera-Yee heard from his teacher that–unlike the nameless keyboard warriors commenting on the video–his classmates have been positive and supportive.
“To go from not having a voice from autism to being so articulate–” Herrera-Yee broke off mid-sentence, contemplating everything that has happened. “He’s just got this inner joy. . . He’s my heart.”
Watch the video here: