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Op-Ed: Wounded Veterans Stronger Than Ever

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February 8, 2017
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It’s crazy to see how many people can write off our wounded veterans, when, in fact, if you took the time to speak with some of them and simply listen, it can change your whole world. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by many Veterans who have battled enemies all over the globe. Some warriors unfortunately never made it home, and others returned just a little bit different than when they left. Several have returned from conflicts with permanent scars from the battlefield both visible and unseen to the naked eye.[caption id="attachment_10153" align="aligncenter" width="720"]

From left to right: Zoey, Jonathan Lopez, and Mathew Pietro of Operation Enduring Warrior Stand together and battle through a rigorous Spartan Race (Courtesy)[/caption]Taking the time to listen to their stories is a mesmerizing thing; they can be filled with passion, pain, hate, love, and strength all at the same time. Many of them have shared similar reactions from people they have encountered as they have traveled through the civilian world. Some of these statements are made with good intentions but aren't quite perceived the way they are intended. Things like, “I’m sorry this happened to you” or, “Does it bother you that you will never be the same again?”[caption id="attachment_10152" align="aligncenter" width="960"]

US Army Veteran Nick Koulchar (center) and members of the Operation Enduring Warrior MAT "Masked Athletic Team" powering across the finish line at the Fort Bragg Spartan Race. (Courtesy)[/caption]

First and foremost, you shouldn't feel sorry for them. Many Veterans aren't looking for sadness and pity. They should be honored and empowered to carry on. In fact, there are thousands of wounded Veterans out there who are just as strong or stronger now than before. I have witnessed them defy the odds, destroying barriers and smashing goals. Day after day using what life has dealt them to better not just themselves, but those around them. [caption id="attachment_10157" align="aligncenter" width="539"]

Tyler J Southern, triple amputee USMC Veteran, offers a "thumbs up" to the camera (courtesy)[/caption]I have been honored to stand beside some of these men and women as they have done amazing things through many forms of athleticism, outdoor activities, and more. Some may have been written off by society for their wounds, but they have proven that they are unbreakable. They continuously make massive movements toward helping others.The United States Military is a brotherhood, and it doesn't have to end once the uniform is hung up. It is one of the most courageous and incredible things to witness when they stand together and support one another; a truly unforgettable, emotional, and empowering sight.[caption id="attachment_10154" align="aligncenter" width="960"]

Operation Enduring Warrior MAT displaying massive amounts of teamwork. Here they build a human ladder allowing adaptive veterans "Honorees" to conquer a slip wall at an obstacle course event. (Courtesy)[/caption]Not all wounds are visible; Veterans have faced incredible diversity to overcome demons created in and out of combat. The most amazing things can happen when they join forces and harness it into unstoppable power and strength. Day after day, they are taking the things in their life that may have otherwise held them back and transforming them into motivation. So never doubt yourself, and never judge a book by its cover, because some of the strongest men and women are built by conquering extreme adversity. A prosthesis or wheelchair does not make a one weaker, but can create a warrior that is stronger than ever!

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