Healing the Spirit

Healing the Spirit

October 17, 2019 48 By William Hollis


We were going to clear a compound, and
next thing I know I felt like I was blindsided from the side of me
and hit out of nowhere. I’m looking as dust settles and I don’t–I don’t see anything. I don’t see anyone. And then I look down and I see my legs covered in blood and at that point in time I realize
that I stepped on an IED. My left leg–I couldn’t move. But my right leg, I was able to move it. All different thoughts were racing through my mind. But the biggest one was just letting my guys down. I just felt bad for letting them down. I felt like I lost. I took my kevlar off and I knew what might happen. I was ready to go. Like whatever happened, I wanted to end my life. I was just waiting for the moment. You know, it never came. I was afraid and scared and I pulled myself away from everyone and everything. I had to isolate myself cause I wasn’t sure what’s happening in my own mind. I felt everything around me was-was crumbling. My life… my body… my mind, And it was just like a–like a black cloud. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to ask for help or seek help. And I was against everyone and anyone trying to help me. I wasn’t sure how to handle all of this–this emotional chaos that was happening in my mind and I had these drugs, man, and I was
actually abusing these drugs. It was better to live in–in a fog than to be suppressed with all these–these feelings. And I used those drugs just to numb the pain. I was sent a gift from my unit. It was a flag. I stored it away. I put it in a box. It collected dust for about four years. And one day, I was in the vicinity of the box and I pulled out the flag, not knowing anything other than I thought it was just a regular flag. I looked at it, and upon closer inspection, I opened it up. And I saw all of my team members’ names with motivational quotes and how the flag was raised in the area of operations
where we worked in. At that point in time, that’s where it dawned on me and I realized like, how dare I keep this flag boxed up. It made me think about my selfishness. I was just thinking about myself–my own pain. I failed to realize other people were hurting, not just me. You know, I–I’ve taken so much from everyone. That motivated me to–to rise. I’m going to honor my unit. I’m going to honor everyone’s sacrifices that helped me. This flag is going to fly again. My anger brought me into the box. It was theraputic for me. It was a way to channel my negative energy
and use that as an outlet. I could barely stand up or walk, much less
do a–do an overhead squat or do a box jump. That was just far beyond my–my–my comprehension at that time. It was hard and I kept quiet. I didn’t want nobody to know about me or my injuries. I would do my own thing, separately from the group. He was outside on the concrete slab. Got to hear his story a little bit. Started talking a little bit more about family than anything else. When we’re done with that he says, “Hey, thanks. No one really ever asks me about my family and “what’s going on in my personal life other than, you know, me working out. I appreciate it.” I think that helped him kind of feel a
little more at ease in the box. I saw everyone working out… I wanted to try it. I was barely doing five inch box jumps and it was hard, but I was like, “I want to–I want to try. “I want to keep on trying. It’s challenging.” And then working out with the individuals, like I saw them grinding and I saw them going through the pain. I felt at home. Three… Two… One… Go! And every time, I’ve grown. You know, from that box jump. From five inches to ten inches to fifteen inches… Now I can do an overhead squat where I thought like, “How am I going to be able to move my prosthetic?” “How am I going to be able to move my limb salvaged leg?” I didn’t even think I was going to be able to save this leg. Or utilize any of the muscles. My body figured out and adapted. I saw progress. I saw the community coming together, cheering you on to come on. It felt like, you know, being back with the unit. Comes in and he lights up the room. He gets everyone going. He motivates everyone. He’ll see somebody in the class struggling and he’ll go over there and help him. He talks to every single person. It’s not
just him working out. He’ll see people running. He’ll go find the last person out there and go run with them. We come in and we hold each other accountable and I think that rally brings him in and kind of steers that PTSD away. He has changed drastically from Day 1 that I met him. Him being more at peace when he’s here. After being injured, I never thought I would–I would get back or I would do something positive. So I figured what if I just show people what I did. I had a goal to run the Boston Marathon. Running with the flag. It was in honor of my brothers that I served with in Afghanistan. I wanted to show them, “Hey we’re still fighting, no matter what.” And that pain is still universal. We’re together. We’re going to overcome. Through tragedy comes great strength. Announcer: Every year the crowd sort of picks its favorite. I think this man is in the running. Leading up to that event, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t my doing. It was the flag that the veterans put up for me. It was the community that helped me get there. It was the reason why I was there. It was people that had supported me through my own struggles. It wasn’t me, but it was collectively everyone’s effort and love and support that came together to bring that moment at the Boston finish together.