Since my injury 14 years ago, I’ve met a lot of injured vets, whether through VA hospitals and public events, or just running into people on the street in cities I visit. I know what they’re going through. I’ve been there. This is what I tell them.
I know right now, things seem really dark, and you’re at your lowest. But, you can still have the life you want to live! Recovering from an injury is not easy. And the hardest thing you have to accept is that you are no longer the person you once were. This is who you are now.
When dealing with depression, it often stems from how I think others perceive me. When I became a triple amputee, I worried how people would look at me. How girls would look at me! But I’ve learned that I am more myself now as a triple amputee than I ever was before my injury.
I meet tons of people every day and give big speeches and attend these events. I don’t do all these things to make myself feel better. I do it because it’s the right thing to do. A while back I met a veteran who was having a hard time getting some equipment he needed. At the time, a news crew was following me around, doing a story about me. When I heard that this vet needed the equipment, I turned to the news crew and told them I would donate some money to help get this guy what he needed. I then asked for the public’s help. By the next day, this vet had $10,000 to purchase the equipment he desperately needed.
One thing that helps me keep moving forward is having a purpose. And anyone who has ever been in the military knows that you need to have a purpose after you get out. Organizations that I am heavily involved in, like Quantum, USA Cares and the Gary Sinise Foundation, they give me purpose! It’s my way of giving back to fellow vets like me.
As the spokesperson for USA Cares, and an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation, I can’t say enough about what these organizations do for vets. When someone donates one dollar to the Gary Sinise Foundation, 92 cents of that dollar go to veterans. That is huge. Whether it’s building houses for vets or providing financial or educational support to vets and their families, organizations like USA Cares and the Gary Sinise Foundation are doing what they can to support our veterans, and I am doing whatever I can to support their mission.
I’ve also found that I can still participate in a lot of the sports and activities I always enjoyed. I still go rock climbing, skateboarding and snowboarding. I go on vacations and swim in the ocean. I might use a wheelchair, but I still manage to be active.
Remember that life truly is what you make of it! I was given a second chance, and so were you. We can either be sad and dwell on the past or do our best to push on and contribute to the world. No, things will never be the same. Yes, there will be some limitations. But ultimately, you can still do a ton of stuff! You just have to figure out what it is you want to do. So, get out there and live, love, thrive!
About Bryan Anderson: Bryan grew up and resides in Illinois. Injured by an IED in October 2005, Bryan is one of the few triple amputees to survive his injuries in Iraq. He is an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation and a spokesperson for USA Cares, which is focused on assisting post 9-11 veterans. Click here to learn more about Bryan.