(CNN) — Former Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony Monday afternoon, will also be honored by the Obamas as a guest of the first lady at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, administration officials tell CNN.
Romesha, who left the Army in 2011, will be only the fourth living service member from the war in Afghanistan to be awarded the Medal of Honor, three other troops having been given this highest of honors posthumously.
A native Californian who currently lives with his wife and three children in Minot, North Dakota, Romesha is being honored for his valorous actions on October 3, 2009, when he and 52 other U.S. soldiers with Black Knight Troop, 3-61 CAV, were attacked at Combat Outpost Keating by up to 400 Taliban fighters. Eight Americans soldiers were killed in the battle, making it the deadliest day for the U.S. in the war that year, but Romesha was one of those who led the charge to take the camp back, at repeated risk to his own life.
After more than 12 hours of fighting, the U.S. forces at the camp — because of air support and brave troops — were ultimately able to push the Taliban fighters back. Within days, the U.S. abandoned and bombed the outpost. A later Pentagon investigation concluded that the camp had no strategic or tactical value.
By sitting in the first lady’s box to be applauded by Congress and, indeed, the nation, Romesha will be following in the footsteps of Lenny Skutnik, the first of many “real people” invited to watch the president from the first lady’s box. President Ronald Reagan invited Skutnik to the 1982 State of the Union address — where Reagan singled out and heralded him – after risking his life to save a passenger drowning after Air Florida Flight 90 crashed in the Potomac River less than 2 weeks before.
The names of the “Skutniks” are usually kept secret until just before the president’s annual speech.
CNN profiled Romesha in a one-hour special, “American Hero: The Uncommon Valor of Clint Romesha,” which will re-air Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET. The former staff sergeant is also a major character in this reporter’s book, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” which tells the story of Combat Outpost Keating and the October 3, 2009 battle.