Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Service members and veterans make guest list for State of the Union

January 30, 2018 - 12:31 pm
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For the first State of the Union address of his presidency, Donald Trump has invited several guests who are military, veterans, and their supporters. A few members of Congress have also invited military personnel and veterans as guests for the event.

The White House announced the following military and veteran attendees who will be sitting with First Lady Melania Trump in the gallery of the House Chamber:

Cpl. (Ret.) Matthew Bradford, is a US Marine Corps veteran who lost both his legs and was blinded by an IED in Iraq in 2007. After several surgeries and therapy, he was able to reenlist, the first blind double amputee to do so, according to the White House.

Ashlee Leppert, is an aviation electronics technician in the US Coast Guard. She rescued dozens of Americans impacted by the recent Hurricane season to include lifting a woman and her four children into a helicopter basket.

Agent Celestino “CJ” Martinez is a 22 year veteran of the US Air Force and Air National Guard. In his current position with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, he has been working to “dismantle transnational criminal organizations, including MS-13,” according to the White House.

Staff Sgt. Justin Peck currently serves in the US Army and last November while clearing IEDs in Raqqa, Syria, he saved the life of his teammate Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, who was severely injured by an IED blast.

Preston Sharp has been recognized for his work to provide flags and flowers at the graves of veterans across the United States. In 2015 while visiting his grandfather’s grave, he noticed that other veterans’ graves did not have flowers or flags. Since then, he has organized more than 40,000 American flags and flowers to be placed on the graves of veterans.

Veterans, military personne, and supporters who have been invited to attend the State of the Union by members of Congress include:

Staff Sgt. Patricia King, invited by Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., is a transgender soldier currently stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state and who has been deployed three times to Afghanistan, according to the Boston Globe.

Marco Chavez, invited by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., is a US Marine Corps veteran who was an undocumented Mexican immigrant raised in America, according to Stars and Stripes. He was deported after serving time in prison for animal cruelty, but after 15 years Chavez was able to return to the United States in December “after California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him and an immigration judge ruled to restore his residency,” according to Stars and Stripes.

Lakesha Cole, invited by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is a military spouse and business owner. She was named the 2014 Military Spouse of the Year by Armed Forces Insurance and serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Military Family Advisory Network, according to a press release from the senator’s office.

According to Roll Call, the following have also been invited as guests:

Ricky Taylor, invited by Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wis., is a US Army veteran and self-declared "Deplorable Vet," according to Roll Call, who volunteered to take the seat of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. after she said she was boycotting the address. 

Lynda Bengtsson-Davis, invited by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., is a transgender US Marine Corps veteran.

Simone Eskew, invited by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is the first African American woman First Captain at the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

Brian Steorts, invited by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., is an US Army and Air Force Special Operations Command combat veteran who founded his business Flags of Valor.  

James "Doc" McCloughan, invited by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is a US Army Vietnam War veteran and recpient of the Congressional Medal of Honor

Linda Ray, invited by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., is a retired US Army Reserve Master Sgt. and sexual assault victim.

Matthew Bellina, invited by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., is a former US Navy Lt. Cmdr., an ALS patient, and advocate for legalizing investigational medical treatments.