WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama got his longest standing ovation during the State of the Union address Tuesday night when he introduced Cory Remsburg.
He first met the Army Ranger on Omaha Beach in France in 2009, during the 65th anniversary of D-Day. They joked around, posed for pictures, and the president told the serviceman to stay in touch.
The next time Obama met Remsburg, about a year later, the soldier could not speak and he could barely move. He was in a hospital outside Washington.
“Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.”
He had been in a coma for months when Obama visited that second time.
But when Obama came calling a third time, last summer in Phoenix, the soldier had defied the medical experts. He was able to stand and salute. And, with the help of a cane, haltingly walked across the room.
Obama has met with more than 1,000 men and women wounded in battle. But it is unusual for a president to have more than one meeting with such a soldier. Obama got a close-up and personal experience with the sacrifices endured by soldiers through the interactions.
On Tuesday, Obama described how Remsburg, still blind in one eye and struggling on his left side, went through dozens of surgeries and endless hours of rehab, to eventually learn to speak, stand and walk again.
“And he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again,” Obama said.
“Men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy,” Obama said. “Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than 200 years we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress.”