Skip to main content

Medal of Honor recipient declines invitation to State of the Union

By Jake Tapper, CNN Chief Washington Correspondent
updated 12:25 PM EST, Tue February 12, 2013
Former Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha is awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama Monday.
Former Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha is awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama Monday.
  • Clint Romesha was invited by the first lady to attend the State of the Union speech
  • He said it was an honor, but he wants to spend the evening with former Army buddies
  • It's also his 13th wedding anniversary, Romesha says
  • He was awarded the Medal of Honor Monday by the president

Watch CNN's comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starting at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on CNN TV. Follow online at or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Follow our real-time State of the Union live blog at

(CNN) -- The former Army staff sergeant who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama Monday is declining the first lady's invitation to be her guest at Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Clint Romesha, who was awarded the prestigious medal for uncommon valor in Afghanistan, told CNN that he has decided to spend the evening with friends from his former unit, Black Knight Troop, 3-61 CAV, his wife Tammy -- with whom he celebrates a wedding anniversary Tuesday -- and their families.

"It's such a great honor to be invited to the State of the Union," Romesha, 31, told CNN. "I really feel bad about not being able to go. But a lot of these guys I haven't seen a really long time and I'd like to hang with them just a little bit more."

Romesha said he also wants "to be there with the family, especially on the 13th wedding anniversary of me and Tammy," his high school sweetheart.

Obama honors soldier's heroics
Little boy steals show at medal ceremony

"I've done some soul searching," he said. "As much as a great honor it would be to be a guest of the first lady, it's also kind of hard to break away from the friends and the family and all the great guys here" from Black Knight Troop, who have come to Washington for the Medal of Honor events. "I just need to spend a little more time with them."

Opinion: Clint Romesha, the bravest of the brave

Romesha has always been a reluctant hero, uncomfortable in the spotlight and eager to share credit with his fellow troops. After the ceremony Monday, Romesha briefly spoke to reporters on the White House grounds, where he was overcome with emotion.

"I stand here with mixed emotions of both joy and sadness for me today," he said. "I don't think I'm much different than Medal of Honor recipients Sergeant First Class Petry and former Staff Sergeant Giunta and feeling conflicted with this medal I now wear. But joy comes from recognition for us doing our jobs as soldiers on distant battlefields, but is countered by the constant reminder of the loss of our battle buddies, my battle buddies, my soldiers, my friends."

Romesha said he accepted "this tremendous honor on behalf of all soldiers who have served with me that day."

"This award is for the eight soldiers that didn't make it and for the rest of the team that fought valiantly and magnificently that day. I will forever be humbled by their bravery, their commitment to service and their loyalty to one another."

Excerpt: 'The Outpost'

Part of complete coverage on
Medal of Honor recipients
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
William "Kyle" Carpenter lost most of his jaw and an eye when he fell on a grenade to shield a fellow Marine from the blast.
updated 4:26 PM EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
An Army veteran credited with trying to save the lives of fellow soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan will be awarded the nation's highest military award.
updated 8:10 AM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
If not for the hue of their skin or their ethnicity, 24 soldiers who faced death in service to their nation would have received the most prestigious medals for their valor long ago.
updated 9:26 AM EST, Mon November 4, 2013
Four years after a brutal battle in Afghanistan in which he was "outnumbered, outgunned, and taking casualties," this former Army Captain received his due.
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha for his efforts in Afghanistan.
updated 10:28 AM EST, Tue February 12, 2013
His eyes moist and lower lip trembling, Clint Romesha nodded haltingly at family, comrades, military brass and the president standing to applaud him for receiving the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.
updated 1:46 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's not often that someone you know and consider a friend is awarded the Medal of Honor.
updated 12:59 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Former Army Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha is known for his valor, but he admits to Jake Tapper that all he feels is guilt.
updated 10:18 AM EST, Thu February 7, 2013
Read an excerpt from CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper's book, "The Outpost," detailing Romesha's time in Afghanistan.
updated 5:10 PM EST, Thu February 7, 2013
CNN's Jake Tapper debuts An American Hero: The Uncommon Valor of Clint Romesha Thurs., 2/7 at 10 p.m. ET.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Wed May 16, 2012
Rose Mary Sabo Brown spent just 30 days with her new husband, Army Spec. Leslie Sabo Jr., before he shipped out to fight in Vietnam. But from that month together in 1969 grew a lifetime of love.
In most cases when a soldier does something extraordinarily brave in battle, it happens in a matter of moments. But to reward that bravery often takes years.
Since 1863, it has been awarded the bravest soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
Readers share their thoughts on what actions call for a Medal of Honor.