ST. MARIES - The family of fallen World War II Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker is headed back to Washington to see the White House after all.
This time it'll be during a Halloween party.
"The president and first lady are inviting some military families - including the Bakers - to go trick-or-treating here at the White House and then attend a Halloween party," said Adam Abrams, White House spokesman. "While the Bakers are here in Washington, we look forward giving them a West Wing tour."
Baker's widow, Heidy, her daughter, Alexandra Pawlik, and grandson Vernon Pawlik, 10, all of St. Maries, were denied entry to the White House last month because the boy was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, which happened to have a photo of the war hero.
The family had attended Vernon Baker's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery the day before. They said they were hurt and saddened to be turned back at the White House gate.
However, the three will be flown back to the nation's capital, courtesy of leftover funds from a fundraiser for the family, so they can attend the Halloween party at the White House.
"I'm pretty excited," the younger Vernon said. "This could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It makes me feel a lot better."
The family said they received an invite from the White House, inviting them back for the party. Abrams said the president and his family plan to attend the party.
After the earlier incident, Vernon was also sent a package with one of President Barack Obama's books, a package of M&Ms and a flying disc, all signed by Obama.
Vernon said he was surprised about the arrival and called the package "very cool." During his earlier trip, Vernon took one of Obama's books to the White House in case he saw the president for an autograph.
Heidy and Alexandra said they are going back for Vernon's sake and believe the White House is trying to make things right.
"We're going back because it's really for my grandson," said Heidy, adding that it's a long, exhausting trip for her. "I think it's important for him after he was denied entrance. That's why we're going back. That was very hurtful because my grandson had a shirt of his granddad and to be told by a security person that we couldn't come in was disrespectful to the president and disrespectful toward my husband."
Alexandra added: "I'm happy for my son."
Alexandra said Vernon will go to the White House in a costume this time due to it being a kid-friendly event.
"I don't think we'll try our luck with the shirt again," she said.
The White House, in an e-mail to The Press, apologized for the earlier incident, calling it an "unfortunate misunderstanding."
West Wing tours, which the family was about to take, require an invitation from a White House staffer and are separate from the normal public tour that's held on the East Wing. Tour participants on the West Wing typically don't wear casual attire.
However, the family said it was never notified about a dress code or suggested attire and, had they known there was one, Vernon would have dressed accordingly.
Thomas Norris, another Medal of Honor recipient from North Idaho who accompanied the family for the funeral, was also denied access to the White House, but because he didn't have clearance.
While back in Washington this trip, Heidy said the family will stay at an apartment of one of the staff members of Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho. The family said Minnick and his staff were also instrumental in general for making the return trip happen.
John Dunlap, commander of American Legion Post 143 in Post Falls, which has been collecting funds to help improve the family's home and pay for some expenses, said $1,100 from the fundraiser was spent on the three air tickets.
"(The tour) is something that should've been done before," Dunlap said.
The family said it also hopes to tour a museum and visit Vern Baker's gravesite on the trip.
Baker, the last living African-American Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died in July at 90 at his home south of St. Maries after a six-year battle with cancer.