(WASHINGTON) -- Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier who was imprisoned for releasing classified military information, expressed gratitude in her first statement since being granted clemency, one week before she is expected to be released.
“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," Manning wrote.
"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."
Manning, an Army private and intelligence analyst whose release of classified materials to the website WikiLeaks sparked a worldwide debate over the status of whistle-blowers and transparency in the military, had most of her 35-year prison sentence commuted in January by President Obama.
On Tuesday, she thanked her supporters, as well as President Obama for giving her the opportunity to be free.
"I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters," she said.
The debate over Manning’s motives behind the leak, as well as the unique attention she received as a transgender military member, made her one of the most notable recipients of a commutation during Obama’s term.
Manning was arrested in May 2010, roughly halfway through Obama's first term, and convicted in 2013. She offered insight into what life was like for her, watching history pass by from inside of prison.
“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," she wrote in the statement.
Manning said that she hopes to use lessons she's learned in prison to help others.
"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,” she wrote.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.