The most impressive State of the Union guest

WASHINGTON -- There's a famous poem about flying which begins, "I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings." It was written during World War II but it describes Jason Gibson to a T.

"Once you're up there you're flying," said Gibson. "You can go anywhere. That's what it feels like and you can see everything. I just love that feeling."

On Earth Gibson is tethered to a wheelchair because he lost both legs so high up he cannot wear prosthetics. It happened on patrol in Afghanistan in 2012 when he took a knee and set off a roadside bomb.

Gibson says he doesn't know how he survived -- simply calling it, "a miracle." A miracle of medicine and of the human spirit. Since then Gibson has competed in four marathons, hit the slopes in Sun Valley and cast for trout in Montana.

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Jason Gibson

"I tell people I've done more stuff with my life with no legs than when I had legs," said Gibson.

But he was still tethered to some sort of wheelchair -- until he got his pilot's license. The obstacles of earth, like bumpy sidewalks or buildings that don't have ramps, are non-existent in the sky.

"No stairs at 20,000 feet," I said.

"Nope," Gibson laughed.

When President Obama visited Gibson in the hospital no one could have imagined he would one day fly. Gibson was so tranquilized on pain medication he didn't even know it was the president.

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Jason Gibson gives a thumbs up while he recovers from injuries sustained in Afghanistan Jason Gibson

"I didn't register who he was and there are pictures of me just like glaring, 'who is this guy? What's he doing here?'" Gibson said with a laugh.

Last October, he wrote the president a letter.

"I felt like writing and saying when you saw me I don't know if you remember or not but you know here's my life after that point you know," Gibson told me. "There is good from bad things."

Gibson and his wife Kara performed another miracle -- a baby girl named Quinn.

"I cried in the operating room when she was born, it was the most amazing thing I've seen," said Gibson.

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Jason Gibson and his newborn baby Quinn Jason Gibson

Given his wounds Gibson had thought he would never be able to have children but, thanks to in vitro fertilization, Quinn is on her way to Washington for Tuesday's State of the Union address.

"I wasn't done here on Earth," Gibson laughed.

Notice how Gibson ends every statement with a chuckle? None of us would envy his condition. All of us should envy his spirit.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.