WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s guests for his State of the Union address on Tuesday will include an Army staff sergeant who helped save a fellow soldier’s life during a mission in Syria and a Marine Corps corporal who became the first blind double-amputee to re-enlist.
The pair were among 15 guests announced by the White House Monday in advance of the annual speech. Officials did not say specifically how either man’s story would connect with the already announced theme of “building a safe, strong and proud America,” but did say their presence will help reinforce that message.
Staff Sgt. Justin Peck, who has served in the Army for eight years, was part of a team of U.S. troops conducting a multiday mission with partner forces in Raqqa, Syria, last November.
Military officials said Peck’s team was clearing improvised explosive devices from a hospital building when one detonated, severely injuring fellow soldier Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy. Peck rushed into the building from his guard post, up to the “uncleared, IED-ridden second floor” to administer first aid.
The White House report on the incident stated that Peck’s quick actions “were directly responsible for saving Chief Petty Officer Stacy’s life.”
Details of Peck’s mission had not previously been released. The bio of the other military honoree, retired Marine Cpl. Matthew Bradford, is more widely known.
In 2010, the then 23-year-old Bradford re-enlisted in the Corps despite losing both his legs and his eyesight in an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq three years earlier. At the time, he told military officials that he wanted to stay on duty to work with other wounded troops to help them overcome their injuries.
“I want to be a Marine,” he said. “I don’t want to get out yet.”
The guest list also includes Coast Guard aviation electronics technician Ashlee Leppert, who helped rescued dozens of Americans during last summer’s hurricane season, and Preston Sharp, who helped organize a charity drive to place more than 40,000 American flags and red carnations on soldiers’ graves.
Veterans and military members are frequently included among the guests for the annual address to Congress, both as invitees of the president and lawmakers.
Earlier on Monday, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., announced his guest for the speech would be Staff Sgt. Patricia King, a transgender soldier who has publicly expressed concerns about her ability to continue to serve due to Trump’s military policies.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va, will have as his guest Cadet Simone Askew, the first African-American woman to hold the title of first captain of the U.S. Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said he will bring military spouse and entrepreneur Lakesha Cole to the event, while Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., has invited Naval Academy Midshipman Alex Vandenberg.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.