A Carroll County veteran met President Donald Trump face-to-face at a Tupelo political rally on November 1.
Ben Shute, a U.S. Army veteran and a longtime volunteer for the Republican party, was honored with an personal audience with Trump prior to the president’s speech at a campaign rally for Governor-elect Tate Reeves on November 1 at the Bancorp South arena in Tupelo.
“[Trump] was very down to earth,” Shute said. “I’d describe him like a cousin. He seemed kind, compassionate, and humble. He was very proud of my service. It was all about me with him.”
Shute said Trump took a great deal of time with a group of veterans prior to the rally, taking “over a minute with each of us,” Shute said.
Trump even signed Shute’s necktie during the meet-and-greet.
“It was very exciting,” Shute said.
Not only did Shute get to meet the president at the rally, he and his son, Benjamin Shute, were given the VIP treatment, with special seats among Mississippi’s leaders, Governor Phil Bryant, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Senator Roger Wicker, former Governor Haley Barbour, and Reeves.
Shute said his request to meet with Trump was granted because of his veteran status, but he had help from Republican leaders whom he met while working on behalf of Veterans Helping Veterans, a Carroll County-based non-profit he helped organize several years ago to assist veterans with benefit and healthcare issues. He also volunteered his time and efforts in the re-election campaign for Senator Roger Wicker and Trump’s first presidential campaign among others. In fact, Shute and the late Johnny Marlow of Carrollton appeared in a television commercial for Wicker.
“I’ve been working with the Trump administration since 2015 to get him elected,” Shute said. “My son, Benjamin, was the [Carroll County] co-chair [along with Paul Henderson] of the Trump campaign. I also helped Roger Wicker as his county co-chair [with Paul Henderson], and Cindy Hyde-Smith.”
Wicker and Smith both visited Carrollton to help promote Veterans Helping Veterans.
“I’ve worked a lot with the Republican party,” Shute said. “I’ve worked on several campaigns here.”
Shute said he has also met leaders around the state in his efforts to help his fellow veterans, many of whom are connected to the Trump White House.
So when Trump announced his visit, Shute requested an audience with the president. He explained that he is currently battling cancer, and a few of his friends connected him with the right people to make that happen.
Between the staff at the offices of Hyde-Smith and Wicker and his friendship with fellow Veterans Helping Veterans member, Dane Maxwell, current mayor of Pascagoula and Public Service Commissioner-elect for the Southern District, he was connected with Lauren Carter at the White House.
“[Maxwell] is on the White House Advisory Council,” said Shute. “He introduced me to Lauren Carter. It was a joint effort between the Senators’ offices and [Maxwell].”
Carter helped roll out the red carpet for Shute at the Tupelo rally, but that was due to his veteran status, Shute said, adding that Trump really took time with the veterans at the Tupelo rally.
Shute of Black Hawk was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1971 at age 20.
Raised in the Vietnam era, Shute’s father and brother both served in the military, and when he was drafted, he started his military career doing engineering work.
After his active duty was over, Shute enlisted in the Army Reserves, stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana for basic training. Within those few months of training, he was promoted twice, and returned home with a rank of Private First Class.
Once home in Carroll County, Shute enlisted with the First 114 Field Artillery Battalion in Greenwood and transferred to the National Guard.
In 1994, more than 20 years after he had enlisted, Shute retired as a Major in the Mississippi National Guard. His branch had been field artillery.
With a finance degree from Mississippi State, Shute worked with the FDIC from 1981 to 2002, when he retired and did consulting until 2015.
Shute is currently a member of the Mississippi State Guard, a volunteer organization that is part of the state defense force of Mississippi. It operates under the authority of the Mississippi Military Department alongside the Mississippi Army National Guard and the Mississippi Air National Guard.