HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Staff Sgt. Andy Piirainen does not know what he will be eating Wednesday night at the White House.
Nor does he really care.
"Whatever they make, I'm sure it will be good," he said.
Piirainen, an explosive ordnance disposal technical from Hill Air Force Base's 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, feels honored just to have been selected to attend the dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and the first lady.
A Purple Heart recipient, Piirainen is one of 77 service members invited to the dinner organized to express the nation's gratitude and recognize the contributions of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation New Dawn. He was selected to represent both his home state of Massachusetts and Hill Air Force Base.
Piirainen, of Grafton, Mass., has been stationed at Hill most of his eight years in the Air Force, but has also served three six-month tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
During his last tour in Afghanistan, in September 2011, he and Senior Airman Andrew Staud, also from Hill, were injured along with five others when they were called to clear an improvised explosive device from a field an Army team was patrolling.
Piirainen received a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered.
Piirainen said that on the fifth day of the five-day mission, one of the soldiers stepped on the IED and detonated the device.
"I heard a loud pop and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground," Piirainen said. "When I opened my eyes there was dust all around."
Piirainen said his first instinct was to worry that he and his team members were about to be ambushed. But when the next people he saw were medics performing first aid on him and the others who were injured, he relaxed.
Shrapnel from the explosive device left Piirainen with a cut on the left side of his face, a torn ear and blown-out eardrum, and injures to his left arm, the left side of his ribs and his left leg.
The White House has invited nearly 200 people to the formal dinner, including military leaders and families of service members who died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Of the 77 service member invitees, approximately 60, including Piirainen, were selected by a panel of the senior enlisted service members of each branch of the military to represent each state and territory in the nation. They come from diverse backgrounds, all services and all ranks.