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February 5, 2019

Rep. Barragán Brings Veteran to State of the Union Address

Every lawmaker on Capitol Hill is allowed to bring a guest of his or her choice to the annual State of the Union address. And this year, more than a dozen are bringing active-duty troops or military veterans as their plus-one.

According to a list compiled by the Democratic leadership staff of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, 10 lawmakers are bringing military veterans as their guests — their stories and backgrounds underscoring messaging about the impact of the government shutdown, the harm done by for-profit colleges and other policy issues.


A handful of lawmakers are bringing active-duty and veteran transgender troops, a statement regarding President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on transgender service members. A version of that proposal may soon become Pentagon policy.

Here are some of the veterans, and veteran spouses, expected to attend tonight’s State of the Union address:

Darrin Kelly

Invited by Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pennsylvania, Kelly is a Navy veteran who worked in damage control from 1994 to 1997, according to his LinkedIn profile. He’s also a firefighter for the city of Pittsburgh and the president of the Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Isaac Saldivar

Invited by Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nevada, Saldivar is a Marine Corps veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who now works as the Las Vegas program coordinator for the organization Merging Vets and Players. According to a House Veterans Affairs Committee release, Saldivar lost two years of GI Bill benefits when the for-profit college he had enrolled in closed.

Jennie Taylor

A guest of Rep. Bob Bishop, R-Utah, Taylor is the widow of Maj. Brent Taylor, a Utah Army National Guard officer and mayor of North Ogden, Utah. Maj. Taylor was killed in November while deployed to Afghanistan.

Chris Gutierrez

A guest of Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Floria, Gutierrez will attend the State of the Union with his wife Chelsey. A petty officer in the United States Coast Guard, he is stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater. Chelsey Gutierrez has written publicly about the hardships her family endured due to a missed paycheck during the government shutdown in December and January.

Tiphanie Carter

A guest of Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, Carter was the wife of Birmingham Police Sergeant WyTasha Carter, killed in the line of duty in January. Sgt. Carter was an Air Force veteran.

Doug Lowe

Invited by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida, Lowe is a Marine Corps veteran now working as an Airways Transportation Systems Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration at the Orlando International Airport. Lowe was among those affected by the recent government shutdown.

Charlene Downey

A guest of Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-California, Downey is a former Coast Guard captain who retired in 2018. She served as commander of Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles prior to her retirement.

Ralph Velez

A guest of Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida, Velez is an 11-year Army veteran and now a federal employee of the Transportation Security Administration at Orlando International Airport. He was also affected by the government shutdown.

Jamie Green

Invited by Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, Green served in the Navy for five years. Now working as an air traffic controller, Green went without pay for five weeks during the shutdown, according to a release.

Robert Martinez Jr.

A guest of Rep. Donald Norcross, D-New Jersey, Martinez is a Navy veteran and president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

Logan Ireland

A guest of Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, Ireland is a transgender Air Force staff sergeant and advocate who has deployed to Afghanistan and Qatar.

Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann

Dremann, a guest of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, is an active-duty transgender Navy submarine officer who has spoken out about LGBT issues.

Megan Winters

Winters, guest of A. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia, is an active-duty Navy petty officer second class who is openly transgender. She was a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s proposed restrictions on transgender troops.