Pentagon & Congress

Military guest list short for State of the Union

Troops and veterans will be largely missing from the President and First Lady Michelle Obama's guest list for the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, at least in the House chamber.

Only two service members will be official guests of the first lady for her husband's address to Congress tonight. Last year, the Obamas also hosted only two military guests, Vice Adm. Michelle Howard and Army Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg. Neither year's guest list included any veterans representatives or military family members.

However, other service members and veterans may be in attendance as guests of their home-state and -district lawmakers. For example, Army Sgt. Thomas Block, who was severely wounded in Afghanistan in October 2013 on his fourth combat deployment, will attend as a guest of Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.

Individuals seated in the presidential guest box for the event are often reflective of the themes of the president's speech. This year's guests include immigration advocates, families who have benefited from recent health care changes and an Ebola aid worker.

During President George W. Bush's final two State of the Unions, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still at their heights, the presidential guest box featured representatives from each of the armed services. The speeches were also heavily focused on military progress in both countries.

But Obama, who campaigned in 2008 on ending both wars, has dedicated only about a quarter of his State of the Union speeches to national security and foreign policy, focusing more on domestic issues like health care and job creation.

This year's military representatives are Army Staff Sgt. Jason Gibson, who lost both legs fighting in Afghanistan, and Navy Capt. Scott Kelly, an astronaut headed to the International Space Station for a yearlong mission.

Veterans groups have said they worry that military and veterans issues have been overshadowed by other domestic challenges in recent years, and they have lobbied the White House in recent days to include more on those topics in the nationally televised event.

But White House talking points in recent days have not mentioned any major defense or veterans policy announcements, and administration online chats scheduled for Wednesday to discuss State of the Union topics do not include any Veterans Affairs officials.

In early discussions with reporters, the administration has talked about economic and education initiatives as their main highlights of the speech.

Recommended for you
Around The Web