State of the Union Guests Range from Obama's DREAMers to Benghazi Dad

“Larry owns several Dots Diners across southeast Louisiana and has first-hand experience with the problems of the Affordable Care Act,” Cassidy said. “He estimates that Obamacare will cost his business over $50,000 a year to implement. The impact of Obamacare on small-business owners and their employees is a reality check on what the administration says about Obamacare.”

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) hopes to make a statement by inviting Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, a survivor of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting massacre.

“It is a shame that President Obama has allowed all of the victims and survivors of the Fort Hood shootings to be denied the benefits and compensation awarded to troops injured in combat. Even after a guilty verdict was delivered this summer, the White House has yet to act on behalf of the victims of this heinous act of terror. I hope the president will make good on his promise to take care of these men and women.”

It is not the first time a Ft. Hood shooting victim has attended the State of the Union address. In 2010 Obama brought in Kimberly Munley, the Fort Hood police sergeant who shot Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist convicted and sentenced to death for killing 13 service members, an unborn child, and a Department of Defense civilian employee as well as wounding 32 others.

Munley said the president promised victims would be taken care of but she now maintains they have been neglected – leaving many to pay for medical treatment out of their own pockets.

Williams and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) are sponsoring legislation to ensure victims receive the benefits and military awards they deserve along with labeling the shooting as a terrorist attack.  

Other lawmakers are likewise inviting those who have served this country. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has invited Eric Marts, a wounded warrior who hosts a Fargo, N.D., radio program that focuses on improving the lives of veterans.

“Eric’s story is about a man who is selflessly committed to serving our country, who has sacrificed much and overcame great obstacles,” Heitkamp said. “Eric continues to serve and has made it his life’s mission to make life better for those who sacrifice so much for us.”

While a member of the Army National Guard, Marts, a master sergeant, was deployed to Iraq for 22 months. He hit a roadside bomb while on patrol outside Fallujah. That explosion caused a deterioration of his vision which led to total blindness. Determined to continue to serve, Marts is focused on helping veterans and their families.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has asked Wayne Telford, a Vietnam veteran whose daughter, Air Force Tech Sgt. Brooke Leigh Caffrey, committed suicide in 2012.

Telford has worked to raise awareness about veteran suicides and served on a panel of veterans, mental health experts and service providers that Bennet convened to develop ways to address the issue.

A number of local officials are expected. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has invited Washington, Ill., Mayor Gary Manier as part of an effort to get FEMA to change its funding for local governments faced with disasters.

FEMA this month declined to provide aid to several Illinois communities that suffered heavy tornado damage during last November's tornadoes, maintaining that an assessment determined the damage didn’t meet federal requirements.

Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) objected in a letter asking for a change in FEMA's disaster zone valuation.

“Having seen firsthand with Mayor Manier the devastation that November's deadly tornadoes caused, it's time for a serious reevaluation of FEMA's methodology for providing Public Assistance,” Kirk said. “Hundreds of families in Mayor Manier's community were displaced due to these storms, and FEMA should treat all communities fairly when a disaster strikes."

“I'm excited to have the opportunity to attend the State of the Union as Sen. Kirk's guest,” Manier said in a statement. “Sen. Kirk toured our city a few days after the tornadoes hit, and continues to be a fierce advocate for our community's recovery efforts. I'm grateful for his friendship and help.”

Perhaps one of the more interesting invitations extended this year during an era of intense partisanship comes from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the former president of the conservative Club for Growth, who asked York, Pa., Mayor Kim Bracey, a Democrat and Obama supporter, to be his guest.

A Toomey spokesman said the invitation to Bracey, who tries to work with Democrats and Republicans alike, is a simple nod to bipartisanship – something in short supply on Capitol Hill these days.

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