Gay hero to sit with first lady during State of the Union

Daniel Hernandez Jr., the openly gay student hailed as a hero for helping to save the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the moments after she was shot in the head in Tucson, will sit with Michelle Obama during the president’s State of the Union address. The Jan 25 event coincides with Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

Also invited to sit with the first lady is Hernandez’s father, Daniel Hernandez Sr.

“I’m both honored and excited to have the opportunity to travel to our nation’s Capitol for a once in a lifetime event,” Hernandez said. “Also the chance to bring my father along for his first trip to Washington, D.C. The State of the Union is a pivotal moment because it is our opportunity to find where we are and where we will be going as a nation in this upcoming year.”

The out gay intern, a political science major at the University of Arizona and a member of the Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues, had been working with Giffords’ office for less than a week when he was assigned to help with traffic control and register constituents during Giffords’ Congress on Your Corner meeting outside a Tucson Safeway Jan. 8.

That Saturday morning meeting was disrupted by gunfire. Jared L. Loughner, 22, is accused of shooting 20 people – killing six and wounding 14. Using his nursing training, Hernandez began tending to the victims. He checked for pulses, going from victim to victim.

When he saw Giffords lying on the ground, Hernandez rushed to her, brought her to his chest so that she wouldn’t choke on her blood and applied pressure to the wound in her forehead, first using his hands and then using butcher smocks from the grocery store.

Doctors said Hernandez’s actions saved Giffords’ life.