MARIETTA — A group of Cobb leaders, private citizens and veterans from nearly every branch of the U.S. military stood shoulder-to-shoulder, buzzing with excitement Friday morning as they waited behind plastic barriers, “Make America Great Again” hats aplenty, for Air Force Two to touch down.

When the giant plane finally rolled to a stop on the tarmac and Vice President Mike Pence climbed onto the top step to wave, the crowd went wild.

Pence landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base ahead of his scheduled appearance at Erick Erickson’s conservative conference at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead.

Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, stood in a corner of the barrier and eventually was able to shake the vice president’s hand as he made his way down the rows of outreached smartphones snapping photos.

Mason said, though the conversation was brief, it was exhilarating just to get to chat for a moment.

“It was an incredible honor just to meet Vice President Pence, and also to have him land here at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, I think signifies the great importance that Dobbins plays in our community and the different roles it plays,” she said.

Mason said she “has great respect” for the leadership of President Donald Trump and Pence’s administration, especially as it relates to their concern for small businesses. She said Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, which aimed to reduce corporate tax burdens with the belief that companies would raise worker wages, show the administration cares about success of local communities.

“We’ve seen a lot of businesses greatly benefit from the tax reform bill, and we appreciate that,” Mason said.

Equally as exciting as seeing Pence in the flesh was seeing the diversity of the crowd at Dobbins, said Jason Shepherd, chairman of the Cobb GOP. Shepherd said the mix of races and ethnic backgrounds of people waiting to shake hands with the vice president is a sign the party’s popularity is spreading among minorities.

“We had Asian Americans, we had Hispanic Americans, we had African Americans. We had just about everyone there to meet the vice president,” he said.

Shepherd said Democrats have “tried their best” to divide people along ethnic and racial lines. But he said, “no matter who you are,” everyone benefits from the economy and job market under the Trump administration.

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren stood in the receiving line just beside the steps of Air Force Two as Pence stepped off the plane. Out of earshot of the crowd, he grinned and shook hands with the vice president as they spoke. Warren and Pence slapped each other’s arms and laughed before breaking the handshake.

Warren said he thanked the vice president for his ongoing support of law enforcement and told him his administration has proven that it prioritizes the rule of law.

“It means a lot to the men and women of law enforcement to know that Trump (and) Pence are willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s first responders,” he said. “It was an honor to welcome the vice president to Georgia.”

Tricia Pridemore of Marietta, who serves on the Public Service Commission, joined the sheriff in greeting Pence and expressed her own excitement in a Facebook post.

“Today it was an honor to welcome Vice President Mike Pence to Georgia with my good friend Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren. The Vice President is a gracious gentleman who spent time with us before meeting WW2 and Korean War veteran Mr. Hall.”

Alan Hall, a WWII veteran who in June was recognized by the French government for his role in the liberation of France, said Friday was his second time meeting Pence. The 92-year-old Woodstock resident said the vice president recognized him immediately.

Hall said Pence is a “down-to-Earth guy” and he’s “doing one heck of a job with President Trump.” Hall said the pair’s attention to the veteran community is especially important to him and shows true patriotism.

As Pence climbed into a black SUV surrounded by Secret Service agents, a chant of “USA” bubbled up from the crowd. Supporters continued to wave to the vice president until the motorcade began to round a corner off the tarmac and the crowd slowly dispersed.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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