My team in Iraq was hit by a suicide truck bomb. I was very fortunate that my wounds were minor. I had been treated at the Fallujah Surgical Hospital and I was able to return to duty 72 hours later. When I came back though, I went to see some of my friends who had been injured and I also went to Bethesda, to the Naval Hospital to visit with some recently returned wounded Marines.
In talking with them, I asked them a little bit about their units, about their hometowns, about their deployments. And then I said to each one of them, “Tell me what you want to do when you recover.” And every one of them said to me, “I want to return to my unit.” Now, the reality of that day was that many of them were not going to be able to return to their unit. One of them had lost both of his legs. Another had lost the use of his right arm, part of his right lung; another lost a good part of his hearing.
And so standing there talking with them, I said to each one of them, "tell me, if you can’t return to your unit right away, what else you’d like to do?" And every single one of them told me that they wanted to find a way to continue to serve. One wanted to go home and be a football coach and a mentor. One wanted to be a teacher, one wanted to get involved and maybe be a law enforcement officer.
And so what had become very clear to me was that all of these men and women who’d come back wounded and disabled, they wanted to find a way to continue their mission of service. And I felt that for me, at that moment, given my experience in the military, given my experience doing humanitarian work that this was the place for me to serve that this was the way that I could make the biggest difference. I’m honored to still serve in the United States Navy Reserve, but I also know that doing this work with The Mission Continues is the greatest way that I can take care of the people that I served with.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.