It can be easy to lose sight of the important things when politics get involved, but Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg's presence at the State of the Union address reminded the nation what true sacrifice and courage look like.
Injury and triumph
Near the end of his hour-long speech, President Barack Obama took a moment to draw attention to the 30-year-old Army Ranger as he sat in the gallery alongside the first lady and other dignitaries.
"On every issue," Obama said in a transcript of the address provided by CBS News, "the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them."
Those ideals are perseverance, determination and optimism – qualities which Remsburg needed in spades after he suffered a catastrophic injury in Oct. 2009, NBC News reports. Remsburg was on his 10th tour of duty, this time in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when a roadside bomb threw him into a nearby canal and peppered him with shrapnel.
Doctors watched as Remsburg remained in a coma for three months, but after years of surgeries and grueling rehabilitation, Remsburg was able to attend the State of the Union as an honored guest of the President, epitomizing the ideals that Obama mentioned when he first introduced the wounded veteran.
Stars and Stripes reported that Remsburg and the President had met once before as the soldier was in recovery, relearning how to walk, talk and eat without assistance after his injury.
"He wanted to show me something," Obama said. "And he leaned out of his chair. And he reached out and grabbed his walker. And with the help of his parents, he pulled himself forward and he stood up. And he looked at me, and he gave me a sharp salute."
"He said, 'Rangers lead the way.'"
Benefits for veterans still a sticking point
Remsburg wasn't the only mention of the military during the much watched speech. With the legislative fate of recent proposed cuts to cost-of-living-adjustments included in veterans benefits still uncertain, Obama took a moment to weigh in on the issue. While some lawmakers have proposed recouping some federal revenue from the cuts, Obama disagreed.
"We'll keep slashing [the deficit] so our veterans receive the benefits they've earned," Obama said, "and our wounded warriors receive the health care — including the mental health care — that they need."
Since their announcement, the COLA cuts have been criticized by legislators, active duty servicemembers and a cadre of the top enlisted retirees from around the country.