Witnessing the horror unfold on the television screen on Monday shook me to the core, as I'm sure it did all Americans. The emotions I felt ranged from shock to sadness and anger. The same feelings I had when I was fresh out of basic and AIT training on September 11, 2001. In those days everyone felt a sense of duty unparalleled in American history since WWII. Perhaps it seemed even more personal because this time the attacks had hit home here in the Boston area. Even though my days of military service are over, there remains a great sense of duty and a compelling urge to reach out to those immediately affected by the attacks. I couldn't help but feel a sense of kinship with some of the victims of that horrific event. I offered the following words of support on my Facebook page:
"As a veteran, double amputee, and fellow Massachusetts resident, I'd like to offer my condolences and deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of yesterday's attack. I'd also like to offer words of comfort and support to those whose lives were forever changed yesterday by traumatic loss of limbs. Although it's undeniably tragic , you will recover. And you must have hope that this terrible trauma will in no way stop you from living a full and productive life. In fact, this will be a defining moment in your life. In the coming days, weeks, and months, you will find a strength and resilience you never knew you had. Take solace in the fact that we, in the veteran community are recovering with you. Look to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost limbs for support and inspiration."
In the days and weeks after suffering traumatic limb loss while serving in Iraq in the fall of 2003, I was unsure of what the future held for me. Up until that time I had been working as an electrician and then as a military aircraft mechanic. Suddenly, at 31, after a lifetime of working with my hands since the age of 16, I found myself a double amputee . The occupational therapists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center sensed this in me and would try and show me examples of other people who had sustained similar injuries who were now doing amazing things. One video they showed me was of a middle aged Vietnam Veteran and double arm amputee named Jerry Miserandino who was rock climbing with his 2 prosthetic arms. That video really did a lot to spark a flame of hope deep in my soul. Meeting him later, and observing his tough, no nonsense,take-on-the-world attitude would do even more to fan those flames of hope inside me, which would later turn into a raging inferno of passion to overcome limitations and pursue a dream of becoming an accomplished artist. I want those victims of Boston to feel that same spark of hope which was such an inspiration to me in my earliest days of recovery.