A small town song playing in the breeze is a melody of simpler times; a new and unfamiliar tune for Brent Chinery.

"I don't think they know much about me. I kind of keep a low profile," Chinery said.

It's in fact his profile his neighbors know nothing about.

One of Harrison's newest residents is a former U.S. Secret Service officer.

Chinery has protected not one or two, but four U.S. presidents.

"Started with Bush Sr. and left just before President Trump came to office. So I was there 26 and half years," Chinery said.

His post was standing right on the other side of the door where the world's biggest problems are solved.

"Being from a small town community in Mid-Michigan to standing outside the Oval Office, it was quite a shock," Chinery said.

It was a shock because the former police officer from the small town of Vassar never imagined his fascination with video clips of President Ronald Reagan being shot would become his life's calling.

>>More: Chinery shares his favorite memory of each president<<

Chinery never dealt with an assassination attempt on his watch, but said he was on the job during one of America's most terrifying days - Sept. 11, 2001.

"We thought one of the planes was coming to the White House. It circled by the White House and the monument and they decided to hit the Pentagon instead," Chinery said.

President George W. Bush wasn't in Washington that day, but Chinery was. He recalls an eerie feeling lingering over the nation's capital - fear of uncertainty and the unknown.

While everyone rushed out of the city, President Bush rushed back to the White House.

"There was an airplane that was up and we couldn't identify it. So we told President Bush we have to go down to the bunker and he wouldn't go down to the bunker until he found out where his dogs were at. He said 'get my dogs' and 'I'm not going down until we get the dogs.' So we had to round up the dogs and he finally went down to the bunker with Mrs. Bush," Chinery said.

While protecting the first family and their pets is what Chinery took an oath to do, his own family was crippled with worry.

"You weren't sure when he was coming home," said Kim Chinery, his wife.

She said being married to a Secret Service officer made her tough. She had to learn to be the protector of her own heart.

"I worried the most when you heard of terrorist activities. He always told me that 'I am in the safest building in the world,'" she said.

But Chinery wasn't always under the security blanket of the White House.

He traveled the world with the president. Every move was calculated and choreographed, but things didn't always go as planned.

"President Clinton, we were in Houston. He decided he wanted to get out and talk to the people. So he gets out of the limo - these people aren't screened - walks to the side of the road and starts shaking hands and talking to people. You don't know what you're getting yourself into. You don't even know who these people are on the side of the road. He would do that quite a bit," Chinery said.

The worry became the norm and was easily balanced by the stories that come from the security clearance to go anywhere inside one of the world's most famous address.

"I remember Queen Elizabeth visited the White House and I was like, 'did you see the queen? Did you see the queen?' And he said, 'I saw Peyton Manning," Kim said.

While Chinery keeps watch over a much quieter post these days, a few small reminders adorn the walls of his new home.

"Karl Rove took his own personal time to write me a letter and thank me," Chinery said.

The memories of a modest man with an extraordinary life, a life he was willing to lay on the line to protect the world's most powerful man. But from Chinery's eyes, those men were no different than you and me.

"You get to see aspects that people never get to see, like the president interacting with his family behind closed doors. They have the same problems that we all do with their children and that's what I enjoyed most was seeing how the president interacted with his kids and his family," Chinery said.

The Monica Lewinsky scandal

“Ethically you knew it was wrong, but you still had to do your job,” Chinery said. “Betty would call me and she would say ‘Monica is getting ready to come in.’ And ‘hold her out there on your post until I am ready to come get her.’”

Betty was President Bill Clinton’s secretary, Betty Currie.

The Monica, Chinery said he sat with many nights inside the White House, is none other than Monica Lewinsky.

“She was not very friendly at all. We never really spoke and she would just sit in the chair and look at me impatiently and Betty would come out and get her,” Chinery said.

Chinery was front and center for the events surrounding President Clinton's affair with the White House intern.

Once the Kenneth Starr investigation began and the news broke, Chinery said President Clinton tried to invoke presidential immunity to block him from testifying.

“We had to go to the federal courthouse and sit there for three days while the Supreme Court decided if we could testify or not,” Chinery said.

The high court cleared the way for Chinery to testify. That's when he said his entire life got flipped upside down. His testimony played on televisions around the world.

“We get out of a van and there’s cameras everywhere. Once we get inside, a marshal escorted us into a waiting room. As we are walking down the hallway there’s a sketch artist doing sketches of us, and I'm thinking, ‘what have I got myself into,'” Chinery said.

It was a very difficult situation for an officer doing his job when part of that job was keeping the things he saw and heard to himself.

Chinery said it was interesting when President Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.”

“I was standing post on the other side of the Roosevelt Room door and it was very hard to digest all that, knowing what I knew," Chinery said.

President Clinton would eventually admit to an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, but it didn't change Chinery's admiration for him.

Chinery said he was the smartest of the four presidents he served in his near 27 years at the White House.

“First thing he would do in the oval every morning, he would gather all the papers and do the crossword puzzles, five papers. Within 15 minutes he had all those crossword puzzles completed,” Chinery said.

Chinery said he's been asked about writing a book detailing the life he lived in the country's most famous house.

But the very modest and very retired Chinery said he's actually ready to write a different story - turning the page to a new, much quieter chapter of his life.

“I’ll talk about it if somebody asks me, but I try to keep a low profile. It's just not me,” Chinery said.

Chinery said he doesn't miss the stress of the job one bit.

Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Digital Content Producer


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