It was Friday 11:17am when the IED exploded in Sadr City, Iraq. An advanced IED known as an EFP (explosive formed projectile) ripped through our up-armored 1114 Humvee known as a HMMWV.
That particular military supply route was normally a busy stretch of road: gas stations, markets, and people peddling whatever they could to make a dollar.
But that morning, it was quiet. Until the IED went off.
I was second vehicle in the section of four vehicles, point for the Humvee’s left side, and that’s exactly where the IED was placed…intended for a tank.
But on that day, the tank didn’t get there. We did.
It was a bright orange flash, coupled with what sounded like a .50 caliber gunfire bouncing in an echo chamber.
I Blacked Out for 20 Seconds
When I came to…it felt as if I’d been tied to a truck and dragged 100mph naked through hot asphalt.
Hole blown through my right arm, leaving it partially paralyzed.
Hole blown through my right knee, plus a chunk of flesh blown from my right thigh.
Broken ribs on my right side.
Concussion to my left temple.
I was raced out of the impact zone by fast acting team members while I was bleeding out.
Next thing I heard was the sound of Blackhawk rotor blades flying me towards the Green Zone for immediate surgery.
That Day Became the Most Important Day of My Life
The next six months were spent in a hospital undergoing a series of reconstructive surgeries.
Walking? I had to relearn walking.
Doing everything with my right hand and arm? I had to learn how to use my left side for things I’d never attempted to do left handed. The simplest things, the hardest things.
Keep in mind, I joined the U.S. Army infantry at 19, and all this happened before my 21st birthday.
I spent my 21st birthday in a hospital, commandeering a beer to celebrate my legal drinking age amidst an experience that matured me beyond years.
I didn’t know how to think or feel. I couldn’t be mad. I signed up for a job that intentionally put me in harm’s way. Getting shot at and having people trying to blow me up was an occupational hazard.
I Had Two Choices:
1. Let this break me (and dwell on it).
2. Adapt, improvise, overcome, and stay in the fight.
I stayed in the fight.
After 3 years of service, the Army retired me at 22, which was 17 years shy of my career goal.
I was told I’d never be able do push ups. I was told I shouldn’t run.
But now, I do push ups. Now, I run. Now, I practice martial arts.
I didn’t let anyone or anything put my fire out, dull my edge, or hold me back.
When not breathing the beautiful air of New Hampshire, I’m working on data quality assurance for C3 Metrics with some of the largest advertisers, agencies, and technologists.
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