In the Marine Corps, they train us very hard to be tough, efficient and extremely resilient. Physical and mental fitness is a part of everything we do. And although I felt like I was in good shape when I started Officer Candidate School, I lost 20 pounds in 10 weeks and returned to Colorado a different person. If someone had described to me the workout regimens we would be doing there, I would have said there was no way I could do that.
And similarly, eight years ago I might not have thought it possible to carry 65 pounds of gear, two weapons and lots of ammunition, all in 100-degree weather in Iraq, and to conduct long patrols 4-5 hours long at a given stretch. But we are all stronger than we think we are, and can each do amazing things.
It is important to remember this when you are having a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad month, and you feel like your world is closing in on you. The bottom line is, if you dig deep, you will find resources you may not have known you had. We are all survivors. We have all overcome adversity of some sort. We have all had our share of battles. And we have all gotten smarter, stronger, braver and wiser from the struggles we’ve endured. Maybe not right away, and maybe not easily, but we’ve bounced back from hard times, and we’ve proven to ourselves that our spirit is stronger than anything that could threaten to break it.
The early reports about my injury were that I had been killed in action — when Corpsman Grant turned me over after I was shot, he said that I wasn’t breathing anymore. So, I know that life can be very difficult, and we all face challenges. But take it from me — life is also sweet, precious and something we should treasure, not just get through. Life should be about celebration, jut simply survival.
So you need to turn challenges around and fight through them. I did, and each of you can too. Over the last eight years I have tried to lead from the front and serve as a role model to other wounded warriors. Not only does that ensure that I am pushing myself in the right direction, but it also motivates others around me. I imagine in your daily lives, at work and at home, there are plenty of opportunities for you to also lead from the front.