It honestly has always been a goal of mine to summit Kilimanjaro, though I never thought it would materialize.
I am originally from Minnesota, though after a year of college, joined the military. I trained in Georgia for the better part of a year and then moved to Italy where I was to be stationed. All in all, I was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army for about 5 years. I did a tour in Iraq in 2003 and then another in Afghanistan in 2005. Towards the end of my tour in Afghanistan, a small group of us, including the team I was in charge of, were returning back to base after a couple days of primarily night time operations. In Afghanistan, there is little infrastructure, such as no roads, so we use trails and dry river beds to travel on. We were driving down the hillside in a dry river bed when my life quickly changed. A combatant had buried an explosive device and it blew up under my truck as we drove over it. Thankfully, it didn't hurt anyone in my team except for me. I don't remember much due to the blast. But from what I'm told, my team immediately pulled me out, gave me medical attention and called in a helicopter to pull me out. I made a stop in Germany at a military hospital before my trip back to the U.S. I "woke up" 5 days later in Washington, D.C. at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. That's when the fight really began...
I woke up in a bed to find myself missing my right leg above the knee, my left leg below the knee, and my right arm bandaged from my finger tip to my armpit. I had broken my ringer finger and elbow. My lip was severed and my jaw was broken. I had no bottom teeth, my jaw was wired shut, and a metal bar was screwed into my jaw externally to realign it. I was breathing through a tube they had put in my neck, and as a result, I couldn't talk. I had a tube running through my nose into my stomach to provide me with nourishment since I couldn't eat or drink. I had small burns on my left forearm and numerous IV tubes running into it. Not to mention several other shrapnel wounds on my face and lower body. I had surgery everyday, sometimes twice a day for weeks
It took me a short while to understand the magnitude of what I was facing, from the near future to the rest of my life. It was then that I decide to take this challenge head on. That doesn't mean, however, that I never though about quitting, never shed a tear or never got down on myself throughout my rehab. I just fought through it, literally, step by step.
Progress was slow at first and then it started to pick up quickly. I got the wires on my jaw removed, my breathing tube was removed (I could talk again!), the IVs were taken out, the cast on my arm was cut off, the stitches on my legs were cut, and my favorite moment... I could eat real food again. I was then finally fitted with prosthetic legs and never looked back. I pushed myself through rehab; I was there everyday for hours at a time. I would go out with my family on the weekends and instead of using a wheelchair, I would walk. I would be in pain, the kind of pain that I can't even describe, but I still did it. Once I got more comfortable with what I was doing, I started to look for more challenges. I kept asking myself, "What can I do that will take me further?" I felt like I could do anything, and by constantly challenging myself, I was really successful with my rehab. I was walking (again) six months after the explosion and running after eight months. After it was all said and done, I was in rehab for a year and a half.
I have found meaning in life by trying to provide motivation and inspiration to those around me in anything I do. I'm humble about it all and I really do love my life and everything that has happened. Mentally or physically, good or bad, tragic or not, I wouldn't be who I am without these experiences, and therefore, I wouldn't change a thing. Now I know that the sky is the limit for what can be accomplished.