Blues appreciate visit from severely wounded Army Ranger

Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg poses with Blues players David Backes and T.J. Oshie (from left, front row) and Derek Roy, Barret Jackman, Vladimir Sobotka and Maxim Lapierre (from left, top row).

ST. LOUIS — The Blues had a special visitor on Tuesday morning in Army Ranger Sgt. Cory Remsburg.

Remsburg, who graduated in 2001 from Ritenour High School in St. Louis County, was injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2009 that left him in a coma for more than three months, but his road to recovery earned the attention and admiration of President Barack Obama.

Remsburg was recognized in January at the State of the Union address, where he and his father, Craig, sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama. President Obama told Cory’s story and the attendees at the U.S. Capitol gave him a standing ovation.

"Like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up and he does not quit," Obama said.

Remsburg, who will drop the puck at the Blues’ game against the visiting Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, met with the team Tuesday following the morning skate, spoke with some of the players and posed for photos.

"It’s pretty awesome that he’s here and smiling in our room," Blues captain David Backes said. "He’s enjoying being here, but I think we get more inspiration out of him being here than he has enjoyment of being here. Awesome that he’ll drop a puck tonight. His sacrifices for our freedom, to allow us to do what we’re able to do, cannot go unnoticed. We owe a lot to men and women just like him that have sacrificed a lot for us."

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Remsburg, 31, joined the Army when he was 18 and went through the rigorous training to become an Army Ranger. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 10 times before a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, hit Remsburg and his platoon in October 2009. Remsburg was found face-down in a pool of water with shrapnel lodged in his brain. One of his fellow Rangers reportedly did not survive the explosion.

His ongoing recovery has been remarkable. He has undergone dozens of surgeries and is still partially paralyzed and is blind in his right eye, but he has slowly regained the ability to speak and walk. He now lives in Arizona.

"Slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad, Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger," Obama said in his address. "And day by day he has learned to speak again and stand again and walk again. He’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again."

The President’s honoring of Remsburg at the State of the Union address in January has made the Army Ranger one of the most recognizable veterans in the country. The standing ovation he received at the U.S. Capitol was called the emotional highlight of the evening.

On Tuesday morning, he spoke with the Blues for a few minutes, with each player stopping to add his autograph to Backes’ hockey stick.

"I think the timing’s pretty appropriate after we think we lose two big games on the weekend and we’re having a tough go and that we’re down in the dumps," Backes said. "You see a guy like Cory and everything that he’s put on the line for us to have this opportunity, for us to be in this position, that puts things in perspective. And we should hopefully be able to put that behind us and go forward knowing we have another opportunity to play hockey in the National Hockey League tonight, and we’ve got a pretty darn good team with a lot of great support. Including him."

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.