29 December, 2006

Another Name from the Past

SGT Bryan Anderson, early Valour-IT Laptop recipient.

It was the last day of Valour-IT's first Veterans Day (2005) fundraiser, when I was still stunned by its success and thrilled Valour-IT was now a viable project. Amid that emotion, arrived an email requesting a laptop for Bryan, then just two weeks into his recovery. I shared it anonymously here: "If I have to think enough to comment on it, I will end up on the floor in a puddle of tears, and I don't have time to cry today," I wrote. The email read:

...He has a long road ahead of him. His mother said that they are doing everything for him and it is getting very frustrating for him. He wants to talk to his friends but he just is not ready to do it yet. With this laptop he will be able to communicate with family and friends and will be able to do it without the help of anyone. This is going to be the first step in showing him that he will be able to do things on his own.

When I told her about project Valour-IT, she almost cried. She couldn't stop thanking us for this wonderful gift and opportunity that you are giving to B. She says that B is a fighter and that he will be getting prosthetic legs. She also said that he will be water skiing again in the future. She is so upbeat and positive over all of this.

Thank you so much for this project. This project Valour-IT is an amazing project...

Less than four months later, in February 2006, Bryan was walking. The same correspondent shared:
B came in town for a benefit dinner to help raise funds for his family. He walked into the room with his prosthetic legs, he was smiling and overwhelmed at the support he and his family received. No one was aware that B was going to be there. I do not think there was a dry eye in the room. He still has therapy but his spirit is strong. He has an amazing support group of family and friends.

The laptop was the first step to the road to recovery. It proved that he was going to be able to do all the things that he did before.

I was once again overwhelmed.

And today, out of the blue, I found him on the cover of Esquire. As my correspondent predicted, he did do all the things he'd done before... and so much more:
I've been wakeboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, rock climbing, snow skiing, playing catch with my brother. I try to do the same things. I'm not going to let it stop me. We did a 110-mile bike ride from Gettysburg to Washington, D. C. Sixty miles the first day, fifty miles the second day. Hand cycle, three wheels. I ended up ripping the glove, breaking the hand, breaking the whole socket. I might do it a little differently, but I'm still going to do it...

He knows who he is:
This doesn't define me. It may be how I look on the outside, but it's not who I am. I guess you could remember me easily as being a triple amputee, but it's not who I am, has nothing to do with who I am. I've always been the same person...

His spirit is indomitable:
You have two options once this happens: Roll over and die or move on. I chose to move on. I'm still me. I'm just 75 percent off. Get a deal on Bryan Andersons this week. You know who actually told me that the first time? My mom. We were in Vegas, talking about T-shirts we should make, and she said "75 percent off." She said, "You should get a shirt showing off your personality."

I keep thinking back to that line: "The laptop was the first step to the road to recovery." I'm stunned, I'm touched, I'm humbled, I'm... I don't have words for what I am feeling. I don't think the right ones exist in the English language...

Just... wow.

[h/t Cop the Truth]