Two mass shooting survivors, a recovering opioid addict and a bullied sixth grader are among the 13 people invited to sit with first lady Melania Trump during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
“This year’s guests come from all different walks of life and each has an incredible story to tell,” the White House’s announcement said. “No matter their background, each one has something important in common: They represent the very best of America.”
The list includes relatives of Gerald and Sharon David, an elderly Nevada couple who, according to authorities, were killed in their home by an undocumented immigrant in January.
Trump has highlighted the couple’s death on Twitter as proof of the need for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Davids’ daughter, Debra Bissell, granddaughter Heather Armstrong and great-granddaughter Madison Armstrong will attend the event in their memory.
Two former prison inmates who were serving lengthy drug-related sentences, Matthew Charles and Alice Johnson, have also been invited to attend.
Charles was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1996 and was the first to be released as a result of the First Step Act, a bipartisan prison reform bill signed into law by Trump in December that aims to reduce the number of incarcerated people.
“During her nearly 22 years of incarceration, Alice accomplished what has been called an ‘extraordinary rehabilitation,’” the White House said of her.
Ashley Evans, an Ohio mother and recovering opioid addict, will also attend as a guest. Evans is commended by the White House for having just celebrated one year of sobriety and for sharing her story of hope with others.
The White House has also invited Tom Wibberley, the father of Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley who was one of 17 Americans killed in a 2000 terrorist attack while aboard the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.
Joshua Trump, a sixth grader from Wilmington, Delaware, who the White House said has been bullied over the last name he shares with the president ― and who The New York Times reported is not related to him ― will also attend as a guest. The first lady’s “Be Best” campaign has advocated against bullying.
Ten-year-old cancer survivor Grace Eline, who the NJ Advance Media reported is from Gillette, New Jersey, will also attend as a guest of the Trumps. Grace was diagnosed with germinoma, a germ-cell brain tumor, at the age of 9.
“Grace recently finished chemotherapy and today shows no evidence of the disease. She is determined to help other children who are fighting cancer,” the White House said.
Pittsburgh Police SWAT Officer Timothy Matson, who was wounded while responding to the October mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, will also attend with synagogue member Judah Samet, who survived the shooting that killed 11 people. Samet also survived the Holocaust. Tuesday marks his 81st birthday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
“Of course, I am very honored,” Samet, who described himself as a Trump supporter, told the paper. “(Trump) invited me, I was told, because I represented two of the biggest tragedies for the Jewish people in the last 100 years.”
Rounding out the guest list are Elvin Hernandez, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security who investigates narcotics, gangs and human trafficking, and Roy James, a plant manager at a Mississippi lumber facility that was reopened after the Trump-backed tax cut bill became law in late 2017.