From The New York Times' interview with Jeanne L. Phillips, chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee:
Q: I hear one of the balls will be reserved for troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
A: Yes, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. That is new. It will be about 2,000 servicemen and their guests. And that should be a really fun event for them.
Q: As an alternative way of honoring them, did you or the president ever discuss canceling the nine balls and using the $40 million inaugural budget to purchase better equipment for the troops?
A: I think we felt like we would have a traditional set of events and we would focus on honoring the people who are serving our country right now -- not just the people in the armed forces, but also the community volunteers, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, the people who serve at, you know, the -- well, it's called the StewPot in Dallas, people who work with the homeless.
Q: How do any of them benefit from the inaugural balls?
A: I'm not sure that they do benefit from them.
Q: Then how, exactly, are you honoring them?
A: Honoring service is what our theme is about.