WASHINGTON—The White House named the guests who will be sitting in the First Lady’s Box during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
The theme of the SOTU is “Building a safe, strong, and proud America,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at Monday’s press briefing.
“Some of these individuals’ stories are heroic, some are patriotic, others are tragic,” Sanders said. “But all of them represent the unbreakable American spirit, and will inspire our nation to continue growing stronger, prouder, and more prosperous.”
Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez, and Freddy Cuevas
These four are the parents of two teenage girls, Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, best friends who were brutally murdered on Long Island, N.Y., by MS-13 gang members. Their deaths in September 2016 are among a string of 17 Long Island slayings that have been attributed to MS-13.
Trump and his administration have been outspoken about cracking down and dismantling MS-13, which is known for its vicious murders using machetes and baseball bats.
Of the 13 MS-13 members indicted in connection with Mickens’s and Cuevas’s deaths, as well as five other murders in the region, 10 were in the country illegally, two are U.S. citizens, and one is a green card holder.
In 2017, the Justice Department secured convictions against more than 1,000 gang members and, with the help of Central American law enforcement, charged 4,000 MS-13 members.
Bridgers founded the Cajun Navy in 2016, a non-profit rescue and recovery organization that responded in 2016 to flooding in south Louisiana and in 2017 to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, according to Sanders.
“He and the Cajun Navy 2016 have helped thousands of people across the South, and to this day, they are helping collect resources and donations for those who lost their homes in the storms,” the White House said in a statement.
Dahlberg, a fire prevention technician at the U.S. Forest Service, saved 62 children and staff members from a raging wildfire that encircled their camp in southern California in July 2017.
Officer Ryan Holets
Holets serves as a police officer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has been shot twice and experienced several near-death encounters in his six years on the force.
“Officer Holets and his wife adopted a baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction, breaking down walls between drug addicts and police officers to help save lives,” Sanders said.
Corporal Matthew Bradford
Bradford joined the United States Marine Corps straight out of high school and deployed to Iraq in 2006. In 2007, he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED).
“He was blinded by the blast and lost both of his legs,” Sanders said. “After multiple surgeries and therapy, he became the first blind double amputee to reenlist in the Marines.”
Leppert serves as an aviation electronics technician in the United States Coast Guard. Last year, she rescued dozens of Americans imperiled during the devastating hurricane season.
“Nothing has left more of a mark on Leppert than her efforts to lift a woman to safety in a helicopter basket. The woman was clutching a few bags of what Ashlee thought were clothes,” the White House said in a statement. “As she drew the woman near, however, Ashlee saw four sets of children’s eyes looking at her as their guardian angel.”
Agent Celestino “CJ” Martinez
Martinez is a special agent for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit. His investigations have led to more than 100 arrests of MS-13 gang members who were prosecuted for crimes including homicide, assault, and narcotics and weapons trafficking.
“CJ is a proud veteran, having honorably served our nation in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard for more than 22 years,” the White House said.
Staff Sergeant Justin Peck
Peck was part of a team clearing IEDs from territory previously controlled by ISIS in 2017.
After the team had located and disarmed seven IEDs, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy was clearing the second floor of a hospital building when he was struck by an IED blast and severely wounded, according to the White House.
“Without hesitation, Staff Sergeant Peck, who was holding a position outside the building, rushed to Stacy’s location on the uncleared, IED-ridden second floor. Staff Sergeant Peck’s actions—including applying a tourniquet, placing an endotracheal tube, and performing artificial respirations and CPR—were directly responsible for saving Chief Petty Officer Stacy’s life.”
10-year-old Sharp was visiting his veteran grandfather’s grave in 2015, when he noticed that other local veterans’ graves were not being honored with American flags or flowers.
Today, Preston has organized the placement of more than 40,000 American flags and red carnations on soldiers’ graves, as part of his goal to honor veterans in all 50 states and to challenge others to join the Flag and Flower Challenge (#FandFChallenge).
Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger
Siblings Staub and Keplinger started metal fabrication company Staub Manufacturing Solutions 20 years ago.
“Thanks to the ‘Trump bump,’ their business … has seen an uptick in sales, employment, and optimism. They have grown their team from 23 to 37 employees over the last year and recently expanded by acquiring a new building,” the White House said.
They also gave all of their employees larger Christmas bonuses in 2017.
Adams is a skilled welder at Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio.
“Last year, Corey and his wife were able to become first-time homeowners, and they will invest their extra money from the Trump tax cuts into their two daughters’ education savings,” Sanders said.