He was the recipient of a long and thunderous standing ovation from the nation’s most powerful officials, including his commander in chief. Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, a wounded warrior sitting with the first lady, was the center of attention for a key and moving moment of the 2014 State of the Union address.
“Like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit!” President Barack Obama announced that night.
The then-30-year-old Army Ranger was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2009. His 10th deployment ended with him being rushed out of the country, partially paralyzed, with a brain injury and blindness in one eye. He was in a coma for more than three months.
Since that horrific day, Remsburg worked tirelessly simply to be able to stand and speak. Remsburg told CNN he wanted, in his moment in the spotlight in 2014, to bring attention to others wounded in battle and prove they don’t want handouts, but rather opportunities to become independent.
“We could sit back and let it vaporize in front of us,” Remsburg’s father, Craig, told CNN, “or we could use this as a launchpad.”
“That single moment has allowed me to help other wounded veterans to get more attention to our situation,” Cory Remsburg told CNN. “We need more understanding and support from our local communities.”
Remsburg has spent the last six years seizing every opportunity to get stronger and achieve independence. He’s been training hard to regain his strength, his speech and his once-smooth stride. Despite many improvements, his extensive injuries still make each step and each word a halting, hard-earned victory.
Last October, his efforts were rewarded with the kind of unique and difficult challenge he’d been craving: a trip to the Grand Canyon with fellow veterans hosted by the organization No Barriers USA.
For nearly a week, Remsburg rafted through Colorado River rapids and hiked up rocky trails alongside other wounded warriors. It was the first time he’d been independent of his parents or caregivers in nearly six years.
“Taking on a challenge that probably was viewed by some as improbable, this was going to be both physically hard, and would make me ‘e tougher mentally as well,” Remsburg told CNN. “Sharing that with other veterans was very rewarding. We were all there with stories to talk about.”
For Cory’s father, it was a moment of immense pride.
“I continue to be amazed at my son’s refusal to be defined by his injures,” Craig Remsburg shared. “Not giving up, not going to take the easy road, these are mantras of my son’s life. They really were already before he was injured, but they are so very important now. He motivates me as well to keep pushing on too.”
So Tuesday night, as Obama lays out his plans for the nation Remsburg fought for, the veteran and his family are looking forward as well.
“I want to go to places without burdening someone else for assistance. This is what I am after,” Remsburg said, adding “I am already looking for that next opportunity to challenge myself.”