Local Hero to Attend State of the Union Address

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    Sandra Lee

    When the president of the United States enters the House Chamber for his State of the Union address on Tuesday, a Connecticut hero will be there, too.

    "I think just the entire experience is going to be overwhelming but memorable, and I feel so honored to be asked to go," said Army Staff Sgt. Sandra Lee.

    Lee found out just days ago she'll be Sen. Richard Blumenthal's guest to the annual speech. The Iraq War veteran won't just watch the address, but will also speak with other senators about the issues veterans face, from mental health to benefits.

    "If I can make any kind of difference in that way and to be a voice for those who may not have a voice or feel like they don't have a voice then I will have done something good," said Lee.

    "I think she'll have an enormous impact on my colleagues who will hear her story of bravery and combat and her surviving military sexual assault and her advocating changes in the system," said Blumenthal.

    The senator hopes her words will push for stronger prosecution against cases of sexual assault in the military, something that strikes close to home for Lee.

    "I was sexually assaulted by another soldier toward the end of my deployment," said Lee. "It's always been an issue I feel has been swept under the rug."

    It's something Lee and many others must live with everyday, and she wants to make sure victims can report what happened without fear of repercussion.

    "For soldiers to know they have somewhere to go, someone to talk to that's safe. That's the biggest thing," said Lee.

    Blumenthal says he'll proudly look up at Lee as she sits in the gallery and knows many others will as well including the president.

    "I hope he'll be aware that he is seeing a lot of heroes. She's one of them," said Blumenthal.

    NBC Connecticut will broadcast the State of the Union live Tuesday night at 9 p.m.