President Barack Obama is set to make his second State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress, and a soldier from West Michigan will be there sitting with the first lady.
Staff Sergeant Brian Mast from Grand Rapids was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010 and was seriously injured by a roadside bomb in September. He lost both his legs in the blast, along with an index finger. He also suffered a broken arm, shrapnel wounds and a damaged ear drum. Mast is currently recovering at the Walter Reed Medical Center.
People also like to see who the president and first lady honor with invitations to sit with the first lady in her box. This year, that includes two people from the Detroit area and Mast. The other two men are Gary and Robert Allen, who run a roofing business in the Detroit area. They were able to retool half of their facility to manufacture solar shingles and launched a whole new business, thanks to a $500,000 boost from the Recovery Act.
This year's speech is expected to have a very different feel from the President's first address, partly because of the the shift of power in the House and also because of the seating arrangement. Congress decided to sit together this year in light of the Tucson shooting earlier this month.
There are several watch parties going on around West Michigan. Volunteers with Organizing for America have planned two of them including one in Kalamazoo at the Democratic Party Headquarters at 3254 South Westnedge Avenue, beginning at 6:30PM. The other is at Uccello's Restaurant in Grand Rapids at 2630 East Beltline. It will get going around 8:00PM.
The White House says President Obama will focus a lot of his address on jobs and the second phase of the Recovery Act. He is also expected to address national security.
Brian participates in his first 'soldier ride' in Miami this month. (Courtesy Danielle Howarth)