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St. Louisans Recall War Hero Lauded During State Of The Union Address

At left, Craig Remsburg sits with his son Cory during the State of the Union address along with a photo of the Army Ranger during rehab with President Obama.
Enhanced White House stream of State of the Union Address

Dear Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg:

St. Louis says, “Hi.”

With tweets and Facebook posts and all manner of website shout-outs, St. Louisans have been sending well wishes to Sgt. Remsburg, the Army Ranger who was lauded for his determination and courage by President Barack Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Remsburg, a 2001 graduate of Ritenour High School, was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2009 — on his 10th deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has undergone countless surgeries and continues to battle back from a severe head injury. He has lost the sight in one eye and is partly paralyzed.

Obama pointed to Remsburg’s resiliency.

“Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit,’’ the president told the nation.

Seated between his father Craig Remsburg and First Lady Michelle Obama, the sergeant rose to his feet during a long and emphatic two-minute ovation.

Cory Remsburg, flanked by his father, Craig, and First Lady Michelle Obama, responds to the ovation Tuesday night.
Credit Enhanced White House stream of the State of the Union address
Enhanced White House stream of the State of the Union address
Cory Remsburg, flanked by his father, Craig, and First Lady Michelle Obama, responds to the ovation Tuesday night.

Even without the national spotlight, Remsburg is always in the hearts of members of Harmony United Method Church on Walton Road in St. Louis County, said Jean Gilbert, office and programs coordinator.

Remsburg and his family attended the church when they lived in St. Louis in the 1990s. He joined the Army after his high school graduation.

Members of the church have remained in touch with the Remsburg family; his name has been on the church’s weekly prayer list since he was injured.

“We have been with him on this journey,’’ said Gilbert who led the church youth group that he belonged to when he was a teenager.

“Cory’s a fighter. He had a lot of support, but he had to have the will. He’s not going to give up,’’ she said.

The family now lives in Arizona, but Remsburg visits St. Louis frequently to support veterans events. When he’s in town he tries to make it to regular church services, Gilbert said.

She was the one who answered the phone when Remsburg’s father called to tell church members that his son had been injured in Afghanistan. Gilbert said that Remsburg's father and stepmom have devoted their lives to helping him recover.

“For me, he was just like one of my kids. One of my boys,” she said, her voice choking.

But she also has happier memories of Remsburg — “a typical kid” who was involved in youth activities. He helped out around the church when work needed to be done. He went paintballing with friends from the church. She also recalled seeing him among a group of kids who were using tables with wheels as skateboards.

“So they were skateboarding from one end of fellowship hall to the other,’’ she said.

On the alumni pages of its website, Ritenour High School, notes that Remsburg was a member of the jazz, symphonic and marching bands.

The school linked to a New York Times story that profiled Remsburg last August.

Obama said he met Remsburg on three occasions: The first was in France in 2009, when Remsburg was among the Army Rangers re-enacting a parachute drop to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II. Less than a year later, Obama met the severely injured Remsburg at a military hospital. Last summer the president visited with Remsburg in Phoenix.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.