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"The smallest of steps completes the grandest of Journeys."

Early life

I was a typical kid growing up in the Southeast during the 1990s and early 2000s. I liked to ride bikes, rollerblade and just generally do the things that kids do to drive their parents crazy. But, during my junior year of high school, I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. That was when I saw what little these people had for themselves. I grew up a little on that trip and realized that I wanted to be different – that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.

I found that something in the United States Marine Corps. And while October 19, 1989 is my birthday, it was November 21, 2010 that became my “Alive Day.”

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The Grenade

The Grenade

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The Grenade

I rolled out of my sleeping bag that morning, around 8am, to the sound of AK-47s. The Taliban had initiated another attack on our patrol base. It was going to be another noisy day in Marjah, Afghanistan.

 

When my time on post (lookout) came, I was positioned on a hot, dusty roof inside a small circle of sandbags waiting out an eerie, four-hour lull in the fighting. The next thing I knew, and felt, I had warm water running over my body. But, as I fought through my disorientation, I realized I had been hit. What I thought was warm water, was actually me bleeding out. Immediately I thought of how devastated my family was going to be that I never made it home from Afghanistan. I said a quick prayer and let the strangely peaceful tiredness, from the blood loss, consume me. I went to sleep for what I thought was going to be the last time on this earth.

The next thing I remember is waking up to the sight of Christmas stockings on a wall and snow covering a hospital room window at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland. That was five weeks after ‘falling asleep.’

During those five weeks, my fellow Marines and my people in my medical evacuation units, which are some of the best doctors and nurses in the world, had worked tirelessly to save my life.