Iraq War Veteran: Find Comfort in Happy Moments

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- One might feel sorry for former Marine Cpl. Joshua Bleill for the loss of both of his legs in a bombing in Fallujah, Iraq, but those who heard him speak at the Firehouse World opening ceremony got a very different perspective: that of...

While on duty on Oct. 15, 2006, Bleill and his comrades were hit by a bomb. Two in his company were killed, others were injured and Bleill was left with traumatic, life-threatening and life-changing injuries. He lost both legs above the knees, broke his pelvis in several places, broke his wrists, suffered a brain injury, and sustained other injuries almost too numerous to mention. He woke up days later in a hospital in Germany and was later transferred to Walter Reed Hospital Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for recovery and rehabilitation.

"I was scared, I was hurt and I was angry," Bleill said, noting that he withdrew and became ashamed of who he had become. He was down to 120 pounds, used a wheelchair and was self-conscious of people staring.

An offer to go see the Indianapolis Colt play in the Super Bowl drew him out of his shell and helped him regain his confidence. He didn't care what the 100,000 or so people might think of him… he was transported elsewhere and it didn't matter that he had lost his legs. That moment was the first step in his new career with the Colts. Later, the team's management offered him a job when he was ready.

He took them up on the offer and now travels the country telling his story and inspiring people to overcome adversity and move on with life.

During his speech at Firehouse World, Bleill praised those in the profession for the passion they have for helping people and making the world a better place.

"Sometimes, it's a thankless job," Bleill said. "But you are changing lives, you are saving lives every day. ...You know your jobs and love what you do."

Bleill said he holds tight to a memory he has of Iraq, when he gave a scared child some candy, and provided a brief moment of happiness and comfort. He told the firefighters they should remember those moments too.

"You have to find those happy moments and the comfort that you can provide," he said. "I thank you for making the country comfortable. You are amazing people ... and it's an honor to for me to be here. I am truly blessed to be alive."