By MaryTherese GriffinSeptember 10, 2019
Wounded Warrior: "I just refuse to give up; I refuse to be a statistic"
By MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition
ARLINGTON, Va., - On September 24, 2010 retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nino Gray's platoon hit a 400 pound improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Gray suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken scapula, several broken ribs and a severely broken lower right leg that required two plates and 17 pins to hold the tibia and fibula together.
"I was at Walter Reed for two months and then I was moved to the Palo Alto Polytrauma Center in California for another couple months prior to arriving at the Warrior Transition Battalion [Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington] where I entered the Army Wounded Warrior Program," said the Infantryman from Los Angeles. After nine operations and several years of physical therapy, Gray is not fixed, not cured, and not as good as new, but he is better!
"I am nine years post injury, and I still have tough days; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I do not believe there comes a time where everything is 'cured,' I just believe we learn how to adjust and change how we react to things. There is no time for excuses, so I do not make any, I just continue to work daily at being the best version of myself," said the married father of three.
Gray talked about his "gray days" when nothing seems to go right. He approaches those days with optimism and shares that with other Wounded Warriors.
"Once you are out of the fight, especially when it's because of injuries sustained in the fight, you then must face a lot of emotions head-on," Gray said. "You will meet frustration. You will battle depression. You will feel guilt. You will go through stages where you will feel so low, but it is during those times that you have to tell yourself 'this too shall pass' and there will be better days."
He transitioned from the Army, began working for AW2, and ultimately found his dream job with the Seattle Seahawks.
"I started working for the Seattle Seahawks in February 2019 as a part-time Security guard. I was able to work my way into an opportunity with their community engagement team," Gray said. "From the first interview, I knew that this opportunity was going to be different. The culture here is contagious; the 'I am in 'mentality is felt by everyone in the building. I now get to represent the military to the Seahawks and at the same time I get to represent the Seahawks to the military, both are equally as important. It is truly a blessing to be here," said the Community Engagement Manager.
He counts his blessings every day and the four that drive him most are his three children, Jayden (10), Jordan (5), and Julianna (2), and his amazing wife, Tasha. "My family are my motivation to keep 'at-it', I may not always be 100% everyday, but because of them, I always give 100% every day!"
Gray tells anyone he can to rewrite that play if it is not what you want and strive to be the best version of you. His ability to recover and overcome is not finished yet and he stresses that he will not quit.
"I am doing well, I still have days where some are harder than others, but we all do, and so the fight goes on. I could never be in this position and speak to my brothers and sisters in the military as if I did not go through every emotion out there on this journey. I just refuse to give up; I refuse to be a statistic."