One of the harshest realties that we must face in life is that regardless of how difficult things may be for us personally, the world around us never stops moving. There’s no mercy rule where life takes it easy on you when things are getting too difficult or where you can skip over an obstacle or challenge in your life if you already have enough stress on your plate. Unfortunately, the stress of life seems to just keep piling up. Life just keeps on rolling by and you either keep up with the current or you don’t and that is when most of us reach our breaking point. Sound familiar? Then this post is for you…
That is definitely a familiar feeling for me. In fact, in this post I will relive some of the most challenging parts of my life with you where I myself felt like giving up. I didn’t write this post for pity or empathy but rather to share a story that you might relate to and hopefully, to share inspiration with you to help you through the difficult times in your life. So if you or someone you know has ever felt like you’re in a losing battle with life, this post is for you.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, I’ve had quite the journey through life so far. Specifically, since I joined the military, I’ve faced one life-changing obstacle after the next. Nearly eight years ago, one of my closet friends and mentors was killed in a fatal car accident coming back to base one morning. The worst part is, I was supposed to be in that car with him that day but wasn’t. The pain that I felt on that day was unlike anything I had ever felt before. The pain of losing him combined with the agony of knowing I was not there to help him is something I’m not sure I will ever let go of.
Then almost a year later, I severely injured my spine on a NATO support operation in Slovakia. I did my best to grit my teeth and power through that injury but I was losing that fight. After my tour in Germany was over I came home on leave to my family pleading for me to finally see a doctor. After a few short concerning visits with the doctors, I was told I need surgery immediately if I wanted to prevent long-term nerve damage in my back and legs and save my ability to walk. Well, that sure escalated quickly. The icing on the cake was when the doctor told me my cherished career in the Army was likely over and the sooner I accepted that the better…
That night I received a Facebook message from a friend of mine from basic training who begged me to call him as soon as I could. The moment I heard his voice I knew something was terribly wrong. He proceeded to tell me that my closest friend and bunkmate from basic training, Christopher Doyle, was shot and killed in Chicago for unidentified reasons. There are no words to describe that pain. Chris was my hero and he single handedly changed my life. Two days prior Chris and I were exchanging messages to coordinate our first visit with each other since basic training and his long awaited opportunity to meet my beloved Kelsey Rose. That pain crippled me.
A few hours later, I received a phone call from my brother asking me to bail him out of jail after he’d been arrested for doing something stupid with his high school friends.
Fast forward a few short months later. After my first failed surgery and months of walking with a cane, the doctor looked me in the eyes and told me I would likely never walk without a limp again. Three weeks later, I sat in my barracks room and opened my “unfit for duty” letter telling my I would be officially discharged from the United States Army due to my injury and sent home to start a new life. I was crushed. It was almost as if life was beating me down one punch at a time.
The truth is, I felt abandoned by the Army because I had poured my heart and soul into being a soldier and I felt as if the rug was ripped out from beneath my feet. My dream was to join the special operations community and I was literally there waiting to start training when I watched that dream crumble through my fingertips. To make matters worse, I was sent home broken and battered.
I could barely walk and I was embarrassed because I felt as if I was returning to my family a completely different man than I was when I left three years ago. Kelsey Rose and I weren’t even engaged at that point and all I kept thinking was “how could I possibly ask her to marry me now”? My family knew me as this strong, confident and unstoppable man but that’s not what I felt like anymore…
A few short weeks after I had returned home I woke up to a phone call from a friend of mine in Germany telling me that another one of my close friends was killed in a helicopter crash the night before…
As crazy as it feels to say, the pain of losing another friend started to feel normal as I had lost so much in such a short period of time. But little did I know, I was in the eye of the storm and the obstacles in my life were just getting started…
Three weeks after I came home, my father and lifelong hero, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (later confirmed to be ALS). For those of you unfamiliar with ALS, it’s a motor neuron disease with no cure that slowly claims your ability to control your body, it takes your ability to speak and eventually, it becomes fatal when it impairs your ability to breathe on your own.
In that moment, I couldn’t imagine a way out of the life I was living. The way I saw it, pain was everywhere and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Just a year ago, I felt like I was on top of the world. I was living my dream as a soldier in the United States Army, crushing every goal I had set for myself and my life and within what felt like moments, it all came crashing down…
In that moment, I started losing hope.
But then something incredible happened. I received a message from my friend Chris Doyle’s mother telling me that she was reading a letter Chris has sent home to her during basic training. She proceeded to tell me that in that letter he talked about me and she told me that he told her I made him want to be a better person.
It was in that moment, that I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the motivational spark was re-lit in my heart. That message was the glimmer of hope that I needed to keep fighting back in life. Regardless of how dark and difficult the last few years had been, I found purpose in knowing that I made an impact in someone’s life and I felt a certain sense of strength again. God works in mysterious ways because he gave me the slightest glimmer of hope to remind me that I had more fight in me.
A few short weeks later my mom gave me a wooden plaque that had a bible verse on it (Timothy 4:17). Little did she know that Chris Doyle sent me that very verse right after we graduated basic training and said it would be his next tattoo because he found strength in those words to never give up. The verse reads, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength”. Oh man is that verse powerful…
Now I have three star’s tattooed on my left arm for my fallen brothers with that very same verse as my daily reminder to never give up. It’s also my reminder that I am still on this earth with a purpose and a valuable opportunity to live a life that would make those three men proud.
As challenging as my life has been, I have come to far to let the difficulties I face in life deprive me of happiness. Living with a disability is not easy and every day is a fight but I value the opportunity to wake up and keep fighting each day more than anything else in the world.
The truth is, life really is hard. We all face challenges of our own and we will all have good days and bad days and good years and bad years. What’s important is that we never stop looking for reasons to keep fighting when life is difficult and that we understand that there is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel.
Years ago, when I was in the eye of that storm, I would have never imagined I would be as happy as I am today. I still wake up every day with chronic pain. I still miss my friends every single day. And my father is still fighting his fight against ALS, but I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.
I may wake up in pain, but I wake up in a beautiful home with my incredible wife and gorgeous daughter.
I may still miss my friends but everyday I work to live my life in a way that would make them proud.
And my father may still be battling that god-forsaken disease but he has used his journey as a way to inspire the world.
We can’t always control the obstacles that life throws our way but we will always have control over how they impact our lives.
I hope you found inspiration in this story and please know that I am here to help anyone reading this. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support at email@example.com