WASHINGTON President Barack Obama invoked the struggles faced by a wounded Army Ranger as he urged the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to work with him to tackle big problems such as boosting the economy and promoting justice and fairness.
Obama paid tribute in his State of the Union address to Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, who spent months in a coma after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Remsburg is blind in one eye and had to re-learn to speak and walk after he was left partially paralyzed.
Remsburg sat next to first lady Michelle Obama in her box during the address, appearing calm and giving a thumbs up at a couple of moments during the president's remarks.
The president, who had met Remsburg before his injuries, described him as someone who "does not quit," prompting a long standing ovation.
During the annual address before Congress, Obama called for steps to bolster America's middle class, pave the way for immigration reform and establish new fuel efficiency standards for trucks.
He also urged action to ensure that men and women get equal pay for equal work and to make sure that wounded soldiers receive adequate health care and job training.
Obama first met Remsburg at Omaha Beach in France in 2009 on the 65th anniversary of the World War Two invasion known as D-Day. Obama said he found him impressive and they took some photos and joked around.
A few months later, Remsburg was found face-down in a canal with shrapnel in his brain, Obama said.
His recovery has involved dozens of surgeries and many hours of physical therapy, the White House said.
The president told Remsburg's story at the close of his speech, making the point that the country's big challenges have "never come easy."
But he added, "if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow - I know it's within our reach."
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Caren Bohan and Jim Loney)