Perspective. From a Veteran.

I procrastinate. I think it’s in my blood (thanks mom). But it’s only with certain things. I’ve mostly grown out of it since I’ve finished college, but there are still certain little areas where I suffer from the procrastination disease. Folding laundry after it’s washed, putting sheets back on the bed after I’ve washed them (both to the demise of my husband) and writing on my blog. There has to be some rule out there that you can only say you have a blog if you’re actually writing on it… which I haven’t been doing. So…this is me saying to you that I promise to try harder. 🙂

Here’s to blog post #3.

Want some perspective for your life? I’m about to give it. I’m going to tell you a story about an experience I had last week at Auburn University. One of the cooler parts of my job is that from time to time I get to interview some of the most amazing people. On this particular day, I had the opportunity to visit the one and only Auburn University (Sorry Bama fans!) and chat with a man by the name of Josh Wetzel.

Josh is a military veteran. He’s extremely humble, friendly, grateful and positive. Did I mention Josh has no legs? While on duty, a bomb went off that left him as a double amputee.

Josh also has one of the best outlooks on life I’ve ever encountered.

After transcribing a football interview in the media relations office (he’s an intern in the athletics department), Josh rushed to the Auburn Development office where we were, coming in just a few minutes late, apologizing for keeping us waiting. Knowing what I know now about this guy and his amazing story, I would have waited forever to talk with him.

The moment he walked into the room, my heart started beating a little bit harder. I couldn’t wait to hear his story, but to be honest, I was also a little nervous about how the conversation was going to go. While any person is SO much more than an injury or situation they’ve gone through, I wasn’t sure how difficult it was going to be for him to talk about his injury and the role it’s played in his life…and if it was even ok for us to ask about it. I try to be sensitive when addressing people’s personal stories, and often let them dictate how much they want to share. I wanted to be respectful of his journey. After all, he was about to share some really personal things with complete strangers.

That fear melted away the minute we asked the first question. Josh was an open book. He boldly told us his story about why he loved Auburn University so much, how he got to where he was, what made him join the military, and more. His face lit up a few different times during the interview. The first was when he shared with us the story about how President Obama came into his hospital room and prayed with he and his wife. A photographer caught the moment, and the photo instantly went viral, especially within the Auburn community. (Notice all of the Auburn swag on the hospital walls!) The captured moment become that photographers most infamous picture. Josh smirked shyly as told us that he thought that was pretty cool for the photographer.

The second time he lit up like a Christmas tree was when he was telling us “the injury story.” He asked us if we wanted to hear how he lost both of his legs, and me and my colleagues all looked at each other and then slowly nodded and said yes, if he was willing to share. I thought to myself…”Here we go…” This was going to be the moment where we would hear the story and then not know quite what to say afterwards. What do you say to a man who has gone through such a horrific trauma? “I’m sorry that happened to you,” just doesn’t seem to do the situation justice.

Josh went right into it and began explaining exactly where he was and what he was doing as if it had happened the day before. They were in front of a tanker, and he was at the at the front of his squad, using a metal detecter to check for bombs. As he was checking around, the metal detecter failed to pick up a bomb that had been made from non-metal materials. The bomb exploded under him. He recalls that he knew immediately that both of his legs were gone.

I’m leaning way forward at this point, waiting to hear what happened next. I was expecting to hear that he couldn’t believe that happened to him, that his life changed forever and would never be the same. Instead, Josh continues by telling us that his best friend was also the medic on duty and that he approached Josh so cautiously, not knowing what to do or to say. After all, he just witnessed his best friend losing both of his legs.

In that minute, it felt like everyone listening in the room was holding their breath…complete stillness. Josh looked up at us and said, “I told myself in that moment that I was going to be alright, that life was going to be ok. I told my friend it was going to be ok, that everything was going to be ok….that I was going to be alright.” I looked at him with what probably portrayed utter disbelief. Was this guy for real? Everything was going to be ok? I picture him laying there, fighting for his life. He chuckles as he remembers giving his buddy a hard time in that moment for only having the “gross grape flavored pain suckers” that they offer to soldiers who have been injured to help ease the pain before they get to the medic tent or hospital.

I hope it wasn’t too noticeable, but I was having a hard time holding it together. One minute he’s telling us a bomb went off and took both of his legs, and the next minute he’s telling us that he couldn’t believe his medic friend didn’t pack any cherry flavored pain suckers in his bag. One minute, my eyes are watering and I’m sad and devastated for him, and the next minute we’re all laughing together at his worry about the grape medicine he refused to take.

Josh considered himself “lucky” after his incident. From his perspective, he was safe in a hospital bed, while his buddies were still out in the field in harms way every day.

Woah. Perspective, my friends.

Laying on the ground in Iraq, in that split second, Josh picked positivity; he picked hope. He knew he had a long road ahead of him, but through his faith, he believed he would be ok and that he would go on in life making a difference, one day at a time.

And that’s how he takes life, one day (as an amazing opportunity) at a time.

And what a difference he’s making. You can read more of his story here.

As we walked out the door, we thanked Josh for his time, but mostly for sharing his story. He thanked us for listening…but I’m not sure why, the pleasure and honor was clearly all ours. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the day.

May we all choose positivity, hope and faith when life seems less than appealing. We may not always know what the future looks like, but that’s ok. God will provide, one day at a time.

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Glass half full kinda gal. Coffee. CrossFit. Conversations. Copywriting. Coaching. Cheering people on in life.

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