Ronkonkoma resident and U.S. Marine veteran Jason Vieira was on hand last week at the President’s State of the Union address as a guest to Rep. Tim Bishop.
Vieira, who fought in the Iraq War, is currently in the “Helmets to Hard Hats” program, which is run by building trades unions to get veterans apprenticed as union tradesmen.
“I was pretty excited,” said Vieira, who got a personal call from Bishop to attend the event. “This doesn’t happen very often.”
Vieira’s time in the military ended in 2004 and he works as a plumber in a local union, a position he got through the “Helmets to Hard Hats” program.
“I invited Sgt. Vieira to recognize the service of our military in Iraq as that war has, thankfully, drawn to a close," said Bishop, in a statement. "I also want to draw attention to 'Helmets to Hard Hats' and other important efforts to provide jobs for our veterans when they return home."
In Washington, D.C., he and Bishop had dinner at the Democratic Club, they toured The Capital Building and spoke with a handful of dignitaries from around the country.
He sat about 20 feet from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, in the gallery during the President’s speech.
“Being there was indescribable,” he said. “I had a perfect view from me to [the President].”
Vieira admits he was never a political person and had only driven through Washington, D.C. coming back and forth for leave during his military years.
During the address, Bishop sat with Rep. John Shimkus, a republican from Illinois, as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen personal relationships across the aisle and increase bipartisan cooperation in the House.
According to Bishop’s camp, he and Shimkus became friends through their participation in the annual Congressional Baseball Game for charity, where Shimkus is a Pitcher for the Republican team and Bishop is starting Third Baseman for the Democrats.
"America's problems can only be addressed with bipartisan cooperation and sitting with John at the State of the Union was an effort to help set the proper tone as we return to work this year," said Bishop, in a statement.