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2014 Warrior Care Month: A SOCOM Soldier’s Story

Chief Warrant Officer Dan Carlton suffered multiple injuries in the line of duty when serving in Afghanistan. After being told his vision was impaired and running was not an option, he took on a challenge to prove those skeptics false. With hard work and determination, Dan Carlton led a life of an inspiring story for fellow service members alike.

I've learned what it means to overcome adversity. It was November 29, 2012 when I lost my left leg and suffered severe damage to my right leg due to an IED while serving in Afghanistan. I was told I'd never see again, that I'd never use my right foot again, and that running would be a hobby of the past. With that being said, I was out to prove those skeptics wrong.

I was determined to learn to walk again. I refused to think that I would be bringing my kids to school in a wheelchair instead of walking them down the hall holding their hands. The thought of not being able to run after a baseball my child had hit never crossed my mind. I knew I had to learn to run again.

There were frustrations along my recovery. Just as I learned to walk, another surgery was required. Just as I completed my first mile, another revision was necessary, and I would spend weeks recovering. All of these were small obstacles in the road to recovery, but obstacles that could not keep me from reaching my goals.

When people ask me if my injuries were from the war, I tell them “yes” and usually get the "I'm sorry" response, and have been told that my loss is a tragedy. I say to them that I chose to continue to serve after 9/11, knowing that there would be danger, loss, and a lot of uncertainties.

I knew the risks, but chose to serve anyway. Having been wounded in combat before did not make a difference to me. I did not let my prior wounds get the best of me, and I still wanted to serve in combat with my colleagues knowing that the risk to self was very high. What counts is that I'm still here and continuing to strive to meet and make new goals.

Tragedies happen every day, and sometimes it takes a tragedy for one to realize what life is all about. For me, serving our country and those oppressed for more than 15 years has been an honor and a privilege. If asked to shoulder my share of the task for those on my left and right again, without hesitation, the answer would be “yes.”

Recently, I had the honor to be selected to represent the United States at the Invictus Games. It was a privilege to have served with some of the finest Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of the coalition on the battlefield. During the Invictus Games, it was truly remarkable to serve with them again, only this time to promote the spirit of sportsmanship, unity, and friendship, and to share the stories of each other’s hardships and what it took to overcome what some would consider "impossible."

It took determination, hard work, and great dedication to overcome each obstacle during my recovery, and I'm glad I never quit. If I had, I never would have been a part of something so amazing, and I wouldn’t have been able to show others that nothing is impossible. I AM USA.