(CNN) – “I just do not know how to let go.”
That was Robbie Cortese’s response when he was initially told he was invited to a barbecue on President Donald Trump’s private plane, the Marine One.
“I’m never going to let it go and if I ever meet the President, I’m going to hold it together as best I can.”
On April 23, Robbie and Melania Trump will be on a flight to Palm Beach in the President’s helicopter, Marine One.
It’s a whirlwind romance for an 18-year-old mechanical engineering student at Virginia Tech and an athlete with a high opinion of himself. The pair first connected after Robbie wrote a note about his football team.
“I was on the cross country team,” Robbie said. “I did pretty well with it and about two months before my senior year I told my dad I wanted to quit the team, so he said, ‘Okay then if you want to quit, I’m going to write you a letter writing you into football,” Robbie recalled.
In the April 1 letter, Robbie told Trump he wanted to be a quarterback. According to Robbie, “He said, ‘yeah, you should be and I’ll sign you up for my golf team.’”
Robbie’s father, John Cortese, said the letter’s contents were random.
“He’d been up in West Virginia and I’m in North Carolina and I would hear from him so I would always check my mailbox and I’d just see the headline ‘Marine One’ and start to laugh,” John Cortese said.
Later that evening, Rodrigo, the beagle puppy that Robbie rescued from the woods, got barked at while standing in a corner. The dog needed saving and Robbie was there to help, Cortese said. When Rodrigo saw Trump’s Marine One, Cortese said it was “all about the pup.”
Robbie worked through Christmas break to respond to President Trump’s letter.
“I said, ‘well I guess you have to follow me on Twitter and that was the only place we thought to go’ and so he followed me. And every day when I went on vacation on Twitter and President Trump’s page he saw me and he’d mess with me,” Cortese said.
Cortese said President Trump didn’t agree with his updates on Marine One and eventually told Cortese to “wipe the Twitter down.” Cortese ran out of steam and stopped updating President Trump’s page.
Robbie ended up taking up golf with Rodrigo the following March when Rodrigo needed to be put down. Cortese said Trump was there for Rodrigo’s final weeks.
Robbie sent Trump a thank you letter at the end of April. Two weeks later, on April 22, he was told he was invited to have dinner on Marine One with the President and Melania.
“We all go get out a meal and then get to the airplane. It was like 5 o’clock in the afternoon and when we walked in, all the people got up and gave us a tour. The President was standing at the pilot’s seat and he was asking all of us what we were doing in life and I told him that I wanted to work in aviation so he kind of suggested me for a position with the Marine Corps Recruiting Command,” Cortese said.
“It was like 10:30 and we go to our respective bunks. I wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym and at 6 a.m. I go home. The next day I get called in for a random interview in the same suite of rooms and a few minutes later they told me I got the job,” Cortese said.
Cortese said it “was a beautiful experience.”
It hasn’t been hard for Robbie to remain focused on his studies and not allow all the celebrity in the world distract him.
“It’s been really hard to cut him out,” Cortese said. “He just goes about his everyday life at the computer and it’s been hard for me because I don’t want him to get distracted.”
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