Here are the veterans and service members heading to the State of the Union

Matt Saintsing
February 05, 2019 - 1:05 pm

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA


When President Donald Trump speaks at his 2nd State of the Union Address Tuesday night, his policies will be front-and-center as lawmakers from across the country plan to bring military veterans impacted by the recent shutdown and his proposed transgender military ban. 

Photo by Jasper Colt-USA TODAY

Veterans affected by the shutdown

Included on the guest list are four federal aviation workers - military veterans - who went without a paycheck for nearly 35 days during the recent partial government shutdown. 

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) will be joined by Doug Lowe, a Marine Corps veteran who works as an Airways Transportation System Specialist for the FAA at the Orlando International Airport. 

Also from the Orlando International Airport will be Ralph Velez, a guest of Rep. Val Demmings (D-Fla.). Navy veteran Jaimie Green will attend as a guest of Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). 

Lastly, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will bring Air Force veteran Toby Hauck of Aurora, Ill. 

At least four transgender service members or veterans

Tavion Dignard served in the Navy from 1998 to 2002. He’ll be the guest of Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), one of only ten openly LGBT members of Congress. 

Pappas told NBC News that the transgender military ban is “un-American” and “would prevent qualified people such as Tavion from serving our country.” 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said on Monday that she would bring Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann to Tuesday’s State of the Union address. 

“Lt. Cmdr. Dremann is a proud member of the U.S. Navy, he is a loyal patriot who has devoted his career to serving and protecting our country, and he is also one of the thousands of transgender service members serving in our military with honor and distinction," Gillibrand said in a statement. 

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said on Twitter she would bring Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland, a transgender service member who has deployed to Afghanistan and Qatar, as her guest.

Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) invited Navy Petty officer 2nd Class Megan Winters, a plaintiff in Karnoski v Trump, one of the four federal lawsuits challenging the proposed transgender military ban. 

But wait, there’s more!

Pittsburgh Firefighter

Darrin Kelly will be attending at the invitation of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.). A Navy veteran, Kelly currently works as a firefighter in Pittsburgh, Pa. He also serves as the President of the Allegheny Fayette Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. 

Marine veteran who lost out GI Bill benefits

Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) will bring Isaac Saldivar, a Marine Corps veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Following his service, Saldivar returned to Las Vegas and where he enrolled at a for-profit college. Unfortunately, he was just three classes away from graduating with an Associate’s degree when his school closed, causing Saldivar to lose out on two years of GI Bill benefits. Today, he helps other vets stay active as the Las Vegas Program Coordinator for Merging Vets and Players. 

Wife of a fallen police officer

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) has invited Tiphanie Carter, the wife of an Air Force veteran turned police sergeant who was gunned down in Birmingham, Ala. Wytasha Carer was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 13, 2019 when responding to a burglary. He joined the department in 2011 and was promoted to sergeant in 2018. 

President of Machinists Union

Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), will bring Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents represents 5,000 federal contractors who lost wages or paid leave during the government shutdown. Before joining the Machinsts union in 1980, he served in the Navy.

Texas Sheriff

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) will be joined by Army veteran Robert Chody, the sheriff of Williamson County. Chody previously served in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 


Additionally, retired Coast Guard Captain Charlene Downey will be the guest of Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-Calif.).

Rep. Charlie Christ (D-Fla.) will bring Coast Guard Petty Officer Chris Gutierrez, and his wife Chelsey. They are stationed at Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater, Fla.

A Gold Star father

Tom Wibberley will be one of the White House’s 11 guests on Tuesday. Wibberley’s son, Craig, was tragically lost in the USS Cole bombing in 2000. 

Photo Courtesy of The White House

A native of Williamsport, Md., Craig loved the great outdoors, especially fishing and skiing. He felt the call to serve his country and joined the Navy. But on Oct. 12, 2000, Tom Wibberley received news no parent of a service member wants to hear, that terrorists attacked his son's ship in Yemen. 

Craig was one of 17 Americans killed, and another 39 were wounded. 

He was 19-years-old. 

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