WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Former Army Sgt. Bryan Anderson survived two tours of combat in the deserts of Iraq, albeit barely, but his message to the Watervliet Arsenal workforce last week was not about dealing with the challenges of combat, but more about combating the challenges that one is dealt.

Anderson lost both legs and his left arm in October 2005 due to injuries he sustained by an Improvised Explosive Device in Iraq.

Anderson was invited to speak to the Arsenal workforce by its commander, Col. Mark F. Migaleddi. Migaleddi had heard Anderson speak at the Army’s Detroit Arsenal some months ago and thought that Anderson would be a great communicator to deliver the message of acceptance and tolerance of those with disabilities.

The commander was right.

Anderson weaved his power chair up a ramp and circled the stage as more than 225 employees silently waited for him to speak. To say that the audience was stunned to speechlessness would be an understatement.

For nearly 10 years, the Arsenal workforce has read stories about Soldiers coming home from combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with traumatic injuries. For many, these stories have been hard to read let alone look at in photos.

But today was different. There would be no quickly turning of the newspaper page or turning one’s head away from a visible and painful reminder of war, a triple amputee. The audience was simply captured by a former Soldier whose boyish smile reminded them of the kid next door, while his injured body reminded them of the war.

Anderson moved about the stage as gracefully as an Olympic figure skater. Of course, he may not appreciate this analogy given his combat experience as a military policeman, but it speaks volumes about the control he has over movement.

For nearly an hour, Anderson talked about why he joined the Army, his various assignments, about combat, and a little about the day he was severely wounded. But the takeaway that day was not so much what he said but how he said it.

“I’m in my fortieth year as a federal employee and there has never been a time when I became as emotionally touched at the workplace as when I listened to Bryan Anderson,” said Richard Clickner, Arsenal Safety Office.

“The courage this young man showed truly inspires me to be a stronger person,” Clickner added. “He put everything in my life into perspective.”

His positive attitude, despite the continued physical challenges of healing from the loss of three limbs, was infectious. He fidgeted, hopped up and down in his chair, bounced to the stage and back up into his power chair, all with a sense that he has mastered his environment. No, he is in command of his environment.

Prior to joining the Army, Anderson had been working as part of the ground crew for American Airlines at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, but that wasn’t enough for him.

“I always felt that I was meant to have an extraordinary life,” Anderson said.

It appeared to all that he has succeeded. He is truly extraordinary.

Page last updated Thu June 2nd, 2011 at 12:32