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Who is Cory Remsburg? And what does he mean to Obama? (+video)

President Obama rounded out his State of the Union speech with the story of Cory Remsburg, the gravely wounded soldier who has made an astounding comeback.

By Staff writer / January 29, 2014

Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg acknowledges applause from first lady Michelle Obama and others during President Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Cory Remsburg has taken 10 tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has won a Purple Heart, received a Bronze Star, and made an astounding comeback from an almost-fatal wounding in Afghanistan. And, on Tuesday, he was a guest of honor at President Obama’s State of the Union speech, his story the stirring, poignant conclusion to Mr. Obama’s address to the nation.

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Staff Writer

Elizabeth Barber is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and English from SUNY Geneseo. Before coming to the Monitor, she was a freelance reporter at DNAinfo, a New York City breaking news site. She has also been an intern at The Cambodia Daily, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and at Washington D.C.’s The Middle East Journal.

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The president introduced Congress to Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, who was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and whom Mr. Obama first met in 2009.

Michelle Obama’s seating box at the speech, as is tradition, was filled with people who represent themes that the president addressed in his speech, each one a tangible reminder, often with an emotional lilt, of what Obama has accomplished or still hopes to accomplish in office.

Mr. Remsburg, seated to Mrs. Obama’s right, was the final invitee to get Obama’s nod Tuesday evening, receiving the audience’s longest standing ovation of the evening.

In concluding the address with Remsburg’s story, and with a promise of support for returning soldiers, Obama appeared to round out the speech with a raw, affecting note that both Democrats and Republicans, in an unusual moment of unity these days, could get behind.

But Remsburg’s story, as Obama told it, also appeared to be an exclamation point to a broader theme that the president pressed throughout the speech: that second chances are possible, not just for gravely wounded veterans, but for a battered president, too, as he tries to get legislation through Congress and seeks to mend weak approval ratings.

“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 near the end of his speech. “My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy.”

In his speech, Obama said that he first met Remsburg, now in his early 30s, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day – June 6, 2009 – at a commemorating event at Omaha Beach in France, where Remsburg and seven fellow Army Rangers were reenacting a parachute drop. Remsburg had joined the Army on his 18th birthday, after his father, Craig Remsburg, refused to sign the paperwork needed for him to join at age 17, Time magazine reported.

The elder Remsburg, a retired Air Force Reserve firefighter, was seated to his son’s right during the State of the Union address.

At that 2009 meeting, Obama found the Ranger “a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack,” Obama said during the speech. The two “joked around and took pictures,” and Obama told him to keep in touch.

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