I have to live up to their sacrifice
By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition

TAMPA, Fla. - "I've never had a purpose of inspiring anyone. It certainly wasn't part of the plan twenty years ago."

That's how retired U.S. Army Colonel Gregory Gadson began his remarks to those in attendance at the annual Army Wounded Warrior Program Advocate Training in Tampa, Florida. Gadson knows what it's like to be a Soldier and an advocate because he's been both. The West Point graduate had a solid and promising Army career until it was derailed in Iraq in 2007 when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device returning from a memorial service. Col. Gadson lost both his legs and full use of his right arm.

"I've always believed you are responsible for your own happiness. If I can be the best I can be, that's all that matters. If I can make a difference along the way that's always nice to know, but I have to live up to their sacrifice; the ones who didn't make it home," said Gadson.

Gadson makes a world of difference. He explained to the advocates the importance of making a difference in a Soldier's life because he had an advocate that made that difference for him.

"Advocates don't let Soldiers quit. You all close that gap that has existed between sacrifice war time and transition to a better life," Gadson told the crowd.

After Gadson's injury, he refused to retire from the Army and worked hard to return to duty. He would do just that, returning to duty and becoming the Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir, Virginia before he retired.

"[Advocates] are the instruments carrying out our nation's responsibility. It's our nation's promise to care for our wounded, injured and ill Soldiers." Gadson speaks at various events around the country and he advocates for Warrior Care and Transition and their mission of honoring our nation's promise to its service members. He says many have no idea what being wounded does to the family and friends of the Soldier.

"In my case, when I was wounded, our whole lives changed. My spouse had to become a caregiver so the dynamic of being wounded is exponential." That change and adjustment was eased and aided as much as possible by the AW2 advocates," he added.

"Your advocate just helps you overcome any challenge. They help you navigate the bureaucracy of the system. For example, after my injuries, I was at Walter Reed and got a bill from the transportation office saying my [permanent change of station] shipment was overweight. The first person I thought of was my advocate because it was extenuating circumstances and I needed some help," said Gadson.

Gadson has overcome many trials and tribulations and continues to give back to the program and wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. His best advice for anyone, military or civilian, is relative to one of his mantras "you have nothing to lose by living."

"Let go of yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, and live today."