The “Today” show has called. The BBC and Japanese media have, too.
But Albuquerque police officer Ryan Holets still didn’t believe it when his sergeant told him he had a message waiting from the White House.
“I told him numerous times, ‘You’re pulling my leg,’ ” Holets said Monday.
But he wasn’t. Someone from the White House had indeed come calling, and now Holets and his family are among President Donald Trump’s special guests for today’s State of the Union address in Washington.
Holets captured international attention late last year after he and wife Rebecca adopted a baby from a heroin addict Holets had encountered while on duty for the Albuquerque Police Department.
Responding to a call last fall, Holets found Crystal Champ — then eight months pregnant — shooting up behind a convenience store in Northeast Albuquerque. After expressing her desire to put her baby up for adoption, Holets returned to his car where he told the Journal he “was compelled by God to go back and offer to adopt her baby.”
The girl — whom the Holetses named Hope — was born Oct. 12. She joined a Holets brood that includes four other children.
Media outlets around the world have carried the story, and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller last month honored Holets with the Outstanding Service to the Community award.
White House representatives first reached out several weeks ago to tell Holets that the president and first lady Melania Trump wanted to meet his family, he said. That progressed to an invite to the State of the Union.
Holets, who recalls watching the annual presidential address with his family as a child, said accepting the offer was a no-brainer.
“It’s a great honor to be invited to the White House and be able to meet the president,” he said. “It’s just something I would never turn down.”
He had not met Trump as of Monday evening but said he thought he would get a chance today. He said he hopes his family’s invitation signals an increased conversation about the nation’s opioid crisis and what he called the “many issues that need to be discussed and dealt with.” Should he get face time with the president, he said he has some idea of what he might say — though he did not provide specifics.
“I have some thoughts; if I do have a chance, I’ll share that with him,” he said.
Holets declined to offer his personal thoughts about Trump.
Holets is among 15 guests the While House announced would sit with Melania Trump during Trump’s speech. Holets said Rebecca and Hope will sit with him.
Trump’s other guests for his first State of the Union include Jon Bridgers, whose nonprofit rescue organization “Cajun Navy” aided Texans after Hurricane Harvey; the owners of an Ohio metal fabrication company; and parents of two girls killed on Long Island — deaths for which authorities have charged members of the MS-13 gang.
After a whirlwind month of interviews, publicity and traveling, Holets said he looks forward to settling into a more regular routine soon. He joked that he is tired of seeing his face everywhere.
“We’re going to try to get a little privacy back, a little quiet,” he said. “And I would like to go back on the streets and actually take calls for service again. That would be nice.”
Holets is not the only person from the metro area attending today’s address. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., announced he would take as his guest Ivonne Orozco-Acosta. She was recently named New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year and is a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Orozco-Acosta said she feels an urgency to openly share her own experience given the uncertain future DACA recipients currently face. Being in Washington for the speech “brings forward our story and the power of our personal narratives to create change, and to put a face and a story to the statistics,” she said.
Orozco-Acosta teaches at the Public Academy for Performing Arts, a charter school in Albuquerque.
“Dreamers like Ivonne represent the future of a great America,” Heinrich said in a statement. “It is an honor to have Ivonne as my guest for the State of the Union and have the opportunity to share her story. Ivonne’s commitment to education and giving back to her community is truly inspiring, and reminds us just how much is at stake for communities across New Mexico.”