9 years ago, I died.

I had thrown another soldier to safety, and took the brunt of an explosion intended to kill my platoon.

In the months that followed I was virtually reconstructed from the inside out. I was given prosthetic legs, and forced to push through grueling pain, fatigue, depression, meanwhile learning about the condition of my brothers who were still deployed. My heart stopped, I wasn’t breathing. They brought me back.

Then I had a stroke shortly after that. I couldn’t remember who anyone was for a while, even myself. My wife and sister couldn’t understand, my mother was angry and upset; but my daughter, Elaine only 3, told me words I will never forget. “It’s OK Daddy, you’ll remember after a while, and even if you don’t, we’ll take care of you”.

The memories came flooding back of who I was, who my family was, as if someone had pulled a cork.

I remembered my guys were still overseas.

When I learned of their scheduled return, I went to greet them in my new legs, and wheelchair. I shook many hands and said “welcome home” many times.

Shortly after, my wife left me, and I begun a battle for custody. A battle which I won, on a valentines day. Later that year I picked up my daughter from the airport, enrolled her in school.

I’ve been in several relationships, some of them toxic, some of them unfulfilling, and some of them wonderful while they lasted.

While I’ve had dark days, days where I wasn’t sure if I could make it at all, I looked up, and remembered all of the people who stuck with me. And even though they couldn’t physically help me drag myself through the mud and despair I was in, they gave me just enough love and support to show me that life really is worth living.

I continue to survive, in defiance of the odds. I should have died on the battlefield, and would have, had it not been for luck, circumstance, and highly trained medical professionals piecing me back together.

I continue to thrive, in defiance of stereotypes against veterans, with PTSD and missing limbs, still capable of being a good father, as a primary custodian.

Regardless of what you’re going through, just know that you CAN survive, you CAN push through, you CAN be a good parent, a good partner, a good neighbor, a good friend. Regardless of the state you’re in now, that is temporary. Don’t give up, push through. If I can do it, so can you.