President Obama drew his address to Congress tonight to a close with a tribute to Sergeant First Class Cory Rembsurg, an Army Ranger who was nearly killed and left in a coma for months by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in October 2009.
Sergeant Remsburg first met Obama when the Ranger was one of seven elite American soldiers re-enacting a parachute deployment on the beaches of Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day, in June 2009, which the president attended.
Months later, Remsburg, also a veteran of the war in Iraq, was on his tenth deployment, in Afghanistan, when a 500-pound roadside bomb exploded near his patrol. His body was found in a canal nearby, the right side of his skull punctured with shrapnel. After six surgeries in hospitals in Afghanistan, Germany, and Maryland, Remsburg arrived at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Fla., in a vegetative state. Three months after he was pulled from the canal in Afghanistan, a comatose Remsburg returned to consciousness at the VA hospital. The sergeant was transported to a Maryland hospital in 2010 for surgery on his skull; while on a visit there, the president recognized him, and later mentioned the story in a speech on veterans’ issues.
Following two and a half years in hospitals and rehab centers and dozens of surgeries, Remsburg moved home, to Arizona, where he’s continued to recover. He lives in a house of his own with a full-time health-care aide and rides a recumbent bike with veterans every Sunday.
In 2010, USA Today featured Sergeant Remsburg in a story on the VA’s successful work with victims of severe brain injuries, and the Times ran a piece this past August on his interaction with the president.