Iraq war vet who lost his legs speaks with teens about persevering in life
osh Bliell’s message was simple but direct: Help each other out. Trust things will get better. When you face defeat, dust yourself off and try again.
He would know. Bliell, 37, was a corporal in the Marines when, on Oct. 15, 2006, while he was in Fallujah, Iraq, his Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED. Two of his buddies died in the explosion, another was badly wounded and Bliell suffered severe injuries that required amputating both his legs.
“Obviously I’ve been through a long journey, but most of us have,” he said.
He shared his story Jan. 30 with about 200 Porter County Career and Technical Center students. He’s a native of Greenfield, east of Indianapolis, graduated from Purdue University and enlisted in the Marines at age 27, after Sept. 11, 2011.
The explosion occurred three weeks into his tour of duty. He spent 22 months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he faced a second amputation after an infection.
These days, Bliell is a motivational speaker and community spokesman for the Indianapolis Colts, which required him to overcome his hatred of pubic speaking.
His basic training was a wake-up call; because he was older than the rest of the recruits, most of whom were about the same age as the career center students, he assumed he knew more.
Bliell realized he was wrong and, when the bomb hit his truck, it was the younger men who saved his life.
“I owe my life to those young men. They saved me,” he said.
When he woke up five days after the explosion in a hospital in Germany, Bliell had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had post-traumatic stress disorder and a host of other injuries. His jaw was wired shut, and doctors had amputated his legs.
“I was down and I was out, and my life was different forever, and I was angry about it,” he said, adding his once-athletic frame shrank to 115 pounds and he was in a wheelchair.
He hid from the public to avoid stares until he was invited to watch the Colts play the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.
He got a pair of robotic prosthetic legs, which offered its own set of challenges.
“It took me five days to take one step,” he said, figuring he could give up or dust himself off and keep trying. “That’s what I chose to do.”