WASHINGTON - Wounded veteran Cory Remsburg had met President Barack Obama three times before Tuesday night— once in France and twice since a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on his 10th deployment. Number four was at Obama's State of the Union address, when the Army Ranger inspired the emotional high point of the evening.
Toward the end of Obama's policy-heavy address, the president gestured toward the uniformed man from Phoenix seated next to first lady Michelle Obama and described the difference between the Remsburg he'd met the first time— "sharp as a tack"— and the wounded warrior his fellow soldiers found face-down in a canal, underwater, with shrapnel in his brain.
"The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn't speak; he could barely move," Obama said to the now-silent crowd in the House chamber. "Over the years, he's endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day."
As Obama spoke, the heads of lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members swiveled to their right and upward toward Remsburg, who had been clapping all evening by patting his right hand on his chest. His left hand lay curled in a brace.
Remsburg, seated beside his father, Craig, is still blind in one eye and struggles on his left side, Obama said. But he's slowly learned to speak, stand and walk again. He's been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
"Like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg never gives up and he does not quit," Obama said.
Everyone in the chamber stood and applauded Remsburg for a minute and 44 seconds, the most sustained applause of the evening.
Wearing a bow tie under his uniform, Remsburg stood, waved and gave a thumbs up. Obama returned it.
As Obama made his way out of the House chamber, Remsburg was helped up the steps of the gallery by his father. What was left of the crowd turned toward him again and applauded.