A transgender soldier imprisoned for releasing classified military information has released her first statement since being granted clemency, saying she hopes to use lessons she's learned in prison to help others.
Chelsea Manning issued the statement Tuesday ahead of her release next week, expressing gratitude to her supporters and to former President Barack Obama.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine. Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts. I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team, and countless supporters.
“I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians, and artists. My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others.”
Manning served nearly seven years of her 35-year sentence at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before Obama granted her clemency in the final days of his presidency.
The Oklahoma native was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents and battlefield video to WikiLeaks. An intelligence analyst in Iraq, she was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning.
Her attorneys say she'll be released from a military prison on May 17.