Wounded [ˈwuːndɪd] adj, suffering from wounds; injured, esp in a battle or fight Warrior [ˈwɒrɪə] n, a person who works diligently for a cause
“Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to it differently.”
When I was born my father was enlisted in the Army as a MP at Fort Myer in Arlington County, Virginia. And consequently, I was delivered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.
I believe my dad’s time in the military helped to instill the confidence he needed to confront having a child born with a severe disability. When I was much younger, he’d sing the Airborne Ranger cadence with me (the G-rated version) and he was constantly telling me about my capacity to reach for anything I dreamed. Growing up, that dream was to serve my country in the military. I wanted it more than anything in my life.
It was a dream I pursued into my senior year of high school. I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test and I even tried convincing Army and Marine recruiters to come out and watch me in wrestling tournaments.
I was told I could probably become a chaplain, but I would never be in a combat role. Even though it wasn’t the dream of jumping out of planes and going after bad guys, it was something I gave serious thought. But, to me at the time, service meant going downrange and fighting on the front lines, and I decided not to pursue it.
I never thought I would find that sense of service, until the first time I returned to Walter Reed, albeit in a different way. For more than a century, the Walter Reed General Hospital has been the flagship for the U.S. Army and a temporary home for thousands of our nation’s protectors.
When I did come back, I sat there in my wheelchair on the the floor of the MATC, the wounded warrior rehab headquarters at the hospital, and I watched some of the most resilient men and women I have ever seen battle through their challenges. My idea of what a human being can be capable of was forever changed.
Because I was born without my arms and legs, I’ve never known any other way to live. I have no way of knowing what it feels like to lose something. I think not knowing what it’s like to have a hand or a leg has made it easier for me to adapt to some situations than someone who has to learn how to use their body all over again. But I do know what it’s like to live without.
I have met some of the most incredible people in my life at Walter Reed and other wounded warrior facilities and events around the country. And my only hope is to show our heroes that our disabilities only define us to the extent we allow them to. That by continuing to stay the course through their recovery they will capable of leading a normal life. And that there can be purpose in life beyond putting on their service uniform.
You can help me in spreading that message by visiting, sharing, and donating to some of the amazing people and organizations below:
My good friend Travis Mills (pictured on the trampoline above) — http://www.travismills.org — was injured on April 10th, 2012 in Afghanistan when he became the 4th quadruple amputee to survive his injuries. And more importantly, he is one of the funniest guys I have ever met. Travis has already inspired thousands upon thousands and he is capable of changing the world with his spirit. His wife Kelsey is an amazing woman herself and their daughter Chloe has become Travis’ highest purpose to get back to good health. I can’t wait to drink a beer on the pontoon boat with you Travis.
A fellow high school wrestler and new friend Taylor Morris (pictured below) — http://www.taylormorris.org — is a Navy EOD from Iowa who was injured on May 3rd, 2012 and is only the 5th quadruple amputee to survive his injuries. Taylor and I only met recently but I very much look forward to doing a little Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with him in the not-too-distant future!
Both Travis and Taylor are already up walking! Absolutely incredible work guys!
Transition Possible — http://transitionpossible.org/ — has 3 goals: Inclusion. Awareness. CrossFit. The non-profit was founded in 2011 by my good friend and CrossFit gym owner, Rick Martinez. Rick was stationed as a nurse at Walter Reed when he had his life changed by the veterans he served every day. Now it’s become Rick’s purpose with Transition Possible to help wounded veterans not only live, but to thrive and lead more productive lives past their injuries.
The FitcoCares Foundation Hero’s Project — http://www.fitcocares.org/ — provides free in-home fitness equipment, individualized programs, personal training and life-coaching to in-need veterans with disabilities.
The Wounded Warrior Project — http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ — has supported thousands of returning veterans and they need your help in spreading the message. Their approach is a holistic one to better serve warriors and their families through healing the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement.
Soldiers to the Summit — http://soldierstosummits.org/ — is a program that was developed by my friend and hero, Erik Weihenmayer. The program uses mountaineering to help create and conquer some seemingly impossible goals for injured veterans.