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He later spoke of the chance encounter at a gathering of the Disabled Veterans of America in Georgia, talking about the “good looking young man, a proud Army Ranger” who had been in a coma.

“It seemed possible that he would never wake up,” Obama said, turning then to describing a remarkable recovery in the making — how Remsburg would open his eyes, then a few weeks later, move a leg, then an arm.

When they met at the hospital, Obama recalled, Remsburg couldn’t speak, but looked the president in the eye, lifted his arm and shook his hand. And, when Obama asked how the soldier was feeling, Remsburg gave a thumbs-up.

It was that same salute Tuesday night, up in the balcony, that made lawmakers in the crowd send a thumbs-up back up to him. Wearing his dress uniform and a bowtie, he smiled softly at first lady Michelle Obama and to the crowd.

Remsburg’s father said he and his son hope Obama’s mention of Cory Remsburg’s story will remind Americans that U.S. soldiers are still at war, being wounded and dying.

“If he sends that message by his presence alone, then he’s done something,” Craig Remsburg told The Arizona Republic in a telephone interview from Washington before flying back home to Arizona with his son.

One of those who have fallen is Wendy Holland’s son, Robert Sanchez, 24, who died in the same explosion that wounded Remsburg. She said that while watching Remsburg on television brought back memories of her own loss, she was happy about his recovery.

“I know Rob would be proud of Cory. I know that,” she said.

Holland said Remsburg doesn’t remember much about the explosion but often messages her through Facebook or email out of the blue to see how she is doing or just to chat about her son.

“He’s a goodhearted person,” she said. “He doesn’t ever feel sorry for himself and I think that’s what inspires me.”