A bond that began in the bloody carnage of the Boston Marathon bombings last April will take former South Florida resident Carlos Arredondo and double amputee Jeff Bauman to first lady Michelle Obama's VIP box at President Barack Obama's annual State of the Union address.
The White House announced Monday that the celebrated pair -- who were featured in an iconic image from the blast and have become the living embodiment of the city's "Boston Strong" rallying cry -- have been invited to attend Tuesday's speech at the U.S. Capitol.
Arredondo, 53, a Costa Rican immigrant and now a U.S. citizen, became known as "the hero in the cowboy hat" for helping rescue Bauman, 27, who identified one of the bombing suspects for investigators from his hospital bed.
Arredondo, who lost both his sons in the past decade, has forged a close friendship with Bauman. In the past few months, the duo have appeared together at the World Series and have taken trips to Costa Rica (with their families) and to France (for a river cruise with other marathon survivors and first responders).
"I am truly honored by President Obama's invitation," Bauman posted on his Facebook page Monday. "Thank you to President and Mrs. Obama and White House staff for this very special opportunity."
On Arredondo's Facebook page, supporters expressed delight.
"You both are examples of the best of humanity, that we can rise above our tragedies to inspire others," wrote Mariah Harrison.
Arredondo's eldest son Alex was killed in the Iraq War in August 2004. When informed of his death by U.S. Marines at his then-home in Hollywood, Fla., Arredondo set their van -- and himself -- on fire. He survived with burns on 26 percent of his body.
In 2011, his youngest son Brian committed suicide.
Arredondo devotes much of his time to charitable events and causes helping marathon survivors, veterans and suicide prevention and mental health issues.
You can read my lengthy profile of him, Fame in a Flash, here.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun