A Marine who lost his leg during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan just completed the grueling Boston Marathon while running with an American Flag.
According to GrindTV, retired Staff Sergeant Jose Luis Sanchez stepped on an IED in 2011 while conducting a patrol alongside British troops in Afghanistan.
“It was like being blindsided by a linebacker,” Sanchez told GrindTV. “It caught me off guard. So I was looking for who was attacking us. Once I realized we weren’t being shot at I looked down and saw my leg covered in blood. These two British officers I was on patrol with came to pick me up because they saw I was hurt. One grabbed me from my shoulders and the other from down near my legs, and my left leg just completely detached from my body.”
In a matter of seconds, Sanchez’s life in the Marine Corps was over. Losing the lower half of his left leg and 90% of his right calf, he grew discouraged as his dreams of walking on two legs or living a normal life were dashed.
“I lost all of my drive,” Sanchez said. “The injury humbled me. I lost all my muscle mass. I lost a ton of weight. I couldn’t walk or move or stand up. I needed assistance just to get out of my wheelchair, and even then I couldn’t walk more than a foot without collapsing.”
Sanchez shut down, becoming an introvert and rarely interacting with other people. He ended up working out in secret, focused on getting strong again.
“I didn’t want to show my wounds because I didn’t want anyone to look down on me,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t want to hear that negativity; I felt ugly. Nobody wants to see those wounds, hell I don’t even want to see them.”
However, four years of intensive workouts brought Sanchez to the realization that he couldn’t battle this alone. Opening up a little, he posted videos of him working out on social media. Since then, he has accrued many positive messages and over 10,000 followers.
Shortly after, he began participating in events. From the Tough Mudder to the Marine Corps Marathon, he pushed himself to the limit.
“That thing broke me,” Sanchez said of the Marine Corps Marathon. “I got to mile 20 and was like, ‘Man, f*** this.’ I had fractures in my leg, but I pushed through and finished.”
Now he’s run the Boston Marathon with the Semper Fi Fund’s “Team Semper Fi”, in an effort to raise awareness for and inspire wounded Marines to overcome and adapt.
“I want to lead by example,” said Sanchez. “I’m not going to go up to other amputees and be like, ‘You can do it!’ Instead, I hope that some people see what I’ve done and it invokes that fire within them to get over whatever is holding them back.”
Sanchez knows the pain of loneliness and — despite amazing achievements — credits his success to his friends.
“I kept fighting, and I got so far because I realized every day is a fight and you need to keep pushing,” said Sanchez. “But in the end, you can’t do it alone. You can only go so far alone before you need the love and support of others. Once you open yourself up to that, you will go so much further.”
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