Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier imprisoned for publishing classified military information, released her first statement on Tuesday since being granted clemency by former President Barack Obama in the waning days of his presidency, according to the Associated Press. In the statement, Manning said she hopes to use the lessons she's learned to help others improve their livelihood.
"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," the statement continued. "My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping through the challenges of their own."
Manning's statement surfaced ahead of her release next week. She personally thanked President Obama, her legal team and countless supporters for helping her keep her alive, particularly during dark moments.
"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," she said. "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 ears of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health are and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts."
By the time she of her release next week on May 17, Manning will have served seven of her 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Formerly an intelligence analyst, Manning was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks. The document dump shed light on prisoner treatment inside Guantanamo Bay as well as well as a helicopter incident in Baghdad that lead to the death of a photographer and driver working for the Reuters news agency.