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Missing Limbs: Be Bitter or Be Better

Noah Galloway makes no excuses for life-changing injuries sustained while serving his country, but shares his story to motivate and inspire others.
Missing Limbs: Be Bitter or Be Better

Noah Galloway


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Show 1622: Missing Limbs: Be Bitter or Be Better - Noah Galloway makes no excuses for life-changing injuries sustained while serving his country, but shares his story to motivate and inspire others.
Air Date: May 29, 2016

Rob McClendon: Hello everyone, Thanks for joining us here on "Horizon." I'm Rob McClendon.
Well, of the 60,000 American troops wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, right at
two and a half percent have suffered the loss of a limb. That's a higher percentage than
any other war and the direct result of three things. The first is the growth in the use
of roadside bombs called IEDs. When they explode under a lightly armored vehicle, the results,
well, they're devastating. But of those injured, a much higher percentage now survive than
in past wars, thanks to the increased use of body armor and new blood clotting technology.
And while these veterans are now surviving their injuries at a much higher rate, they
still face a lifetime of challenges. And no one knows that more than Noah Galloway, the
Army veteran who's become a reality television star despite a life changing injury. And we
caught up with him as he was speaking with a group at Moore Norman Technology Center.
Rob McClendon: When the twin towers came tumbling down, it was an easy decision to join the
Army for Noah Galloway. Noah Galloway: I watched as that second plane
hit and the screams and the cries. Rob: But with service often comes sacrifice,
and Sgt. Galloway's life was soon to change. Galloway: In 2005, I'd been driving Humvees
with the headlights off, the night vision guard was on. With night vision guard on you
can see well, but you can't see everything. One thing I didn't see that night was a trip
wire stretched across the road. Rob: Just three months into his second tour
of duty, Galloway lost his left arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee.
Galloway: You know, it was such an emotional up and down roller coaster when I got injured
and I woke up in a hospital, and you know, there were moments when I was like, you know,
I'm just fine, I'm missing an arm and a leg. I'll be OK. I'll be fine. I'll make something
of it. Then there are other moments, I mean, I was very emotional and thought, what am
I gonna do? And then those moments when I thought this will be fine. I went through
a lot of denial in that part of my depression, and it took me a couple of years to think,
you know what, I don't know what I can do, but I'm not going to know until I start pushing
Rob: Like a lot of our injured veterans, thereare injuries that we don't see.
Galloway: Don't see. Yes. You know, my obviousinjuries were my arm and my leg, but there was
so much that was going on emotionallyand mentally,
and I see that in the guys that I served with. You know, they have all their
limbs; in fact, I feel worse for them because people don't see that they're even injured
- may not even know that they're a veteran. And they're going through all these struggles
and have all these dark moments, and, you know, when I talk to veterans or I'm talking
to another, you know, service man or woman that has been through that, I remind them
that if you're going through it or, you know, if you serve with people, connect with 'em
because they may, you may not know that they're going through something, but you have to connect.
You have to connect where that'll come out.
Rob: Something Galloway knows firsthand. The
former fitness fanatic and hypercompetitive athlete was now drinking, smoking and sleeping
his days away. But late one night, Galloway took a long look in the mirror and realized
there was more to him than the injuries.
Galloway: That depression I went through was
so hard to come out of. There were a couple of things that happened, you know, I had a
lot of family, friends, organizations that were there for me. But then also more importantly,
it was my kids. I realized I needed to be a better father, and that motivated me to
get into a gym, start exercising, eating healthy and just start that slow progression to being
healthy again. And just having that goal of getting back into shape was enough to distract
me and pull me through that depression. Scramble, do anything you gotta do.
Rob: And Galloway began a fitness journey, pushing himself into extreme competitions
around the country - reshaping his broken body into tiptop shape. And a full decade
after his devastating injuries named by the nation's top fitness magazine as the Ultimate
Men's Health Guy.
Galloway: When I look in the mirror, I'm proud,
you know. We all, it's basically when you're in fitness you become very picky, you're a
perfectionist, you know. Sometimes I'm not that happy and I'm, OK, I need to work on
this, oh my diet's kind of catching up to me so now I need to adjust. But more or less,
the fact that I am injured and where I've come from, it's been 10 years since I've been
injured, and what I see is that I'm powerful and I'm strong even without my left arm and
left leg. And the reaction I get from people, the first couple of years of injury people
would talk to me and they felt sorry for me. I don't get that anymore. Even before all
this attention thing, people would see me, yeah, I'm missing an arm or a leg, but they
see that I'm probably in better shape than they are. And the reaction I got from people
was, wow, this is incredible, and that was all because my demeanor changed, my outlook
and my appearance. Rob: But with every accomplishment comes the
next challenge, and this time it wasn't inside a gym but on a dance floor on national TV.
Galloway: It was terrifying, because aside from me missing an arm and a leg, I don't
know how to dance. So here I am about to dance live on national television, but then once
we got out there, Sharna Burgess, my dance partner, had taught me so well that when we
did our first dance it didn't feel too bad. And then once we did that dance, week two
was better, three was improvement, so then each week just got better and better and more
comfortable. And I owe that all to Sharna Burgess and what she was able to do and work
with me. She's an artist and I was the canvas that she was creating.
Rob: And really, you danced to a spotlight song by Oklahoma's Toby Keith.
Galloway: Yeah, Toby Keith's "American Soldier." [Music.]
Galloway: That was a pivotal moment for me in that was week five, halfway through the
competition, and I wasn't sure how long I was gonna last. I was kind of losing motivation,
but the reaction from people changed everything because of that one dance, that one song.
And then every dance on "Dancing with the Stars," in each of the individual dances put
on YouTube, and this was Season 20 and all those dances that had been on YouTube, that
dance in one week had the most views of any dance in the history of "Dancing with the
Stars." It has 41 million views. And it was shared by Gen. Odierno, he shared it on his
Facebook page. Vice President Biden's wife tweeted it. It was all these different people
and different levels that were sharing this dance.
Rob: Galloway and his dance partner finished third in the competition, and he is now a
nationally sought after speaker with a message of, "You can choose to be bitter, or you can
choose to be better." Galloway: You've got to find what it is in
life that motivates you and pushes you that you are drawn to.
Rob: Something Galloway hopes we can all learn from.
Galloway: In the past, we've seen too many movies or TV shows that have put veterans
in a bad light. You know, you may think, oh, a Vietnam veteran, this is a guy who lives
out in a trailer in the middle of nowhere and stays drunk and does a lot of drugs. Well,
you know, there might be that veteran out there that we need to reach out to and get
help for, but you know how many successful CEOs had served in Vietnam. You know, we are
a group, we are the small population who are willing sacrifice life and limb for this country.
We've been pushed and trained in leadership. We are willing to go above and beyond. We
are the ones that will do whatever it takes to protect our fellow American. And that man
or woman out there that has served in uniform is somebody that these companies need to realize
are the biggest asset they could ever have, and we need to get past this stigmatism of
what a veteran is - that they're broken -- because we are much, very much powerful, strong and
willing to work.
Rob: Noah, thank you for your service.
Galloway: Thank you.
Rob: Now, Noah's TV stardom continues to shine.
He's one of four coaches on the reality TV show American Grit, where they push their
teams through military-style competitions, and so far in season one, Galloway's team
is beating them all. Now, when we return, we meet some of the people who help amputees
get back on their prosthetic feet.
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