Don't make it easier for others to beat you in life
By MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON Va. - Fitness guru Jillian Michaels once said to look at adversity in your life like this: "If you got a flat tire what would you do? Would you change it or slash the other three? Of course you wouldn't slash the other three! Get out, change the tire, get back on the road and don't dwell on it because that gets you nowhere!"

Taking action and pressing forward is something retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Armando Mejia knows all about. He has a similar message for Soldiers who deal with adversity as he did from being wounded, ill, or injured. "Every time you stay out late; Every time you sleep in; Every time you miss a workout or an appointment; Every time you don't give 100%, you make it that much easier for me and others to beat you in life," said the Infantryman turned Motor Transport Operator.

In 2004, Mejia was injured in Mosul, Iraq after an explosion followed by a firefight took place after his Humvee flipped upside down pinning him inside. "I remember, someone touching my left hand and saying, 'We are going to get you out, Sergeant.' I could barely hear the return fire from my Soldiers as they were in a battle. Rounds were hitting the vehicle from the enemy," Mejia recalled. "At that time, all I can do was pray, and if this was my time to go, then I was accepting it, but I knew my Soldiers would get me out."

They did. Mejia suffered multiple injuries to his right foot, left knee, internal bleeding on the right side of his stomach, burns on his back, a broken left eardrum, and hairline fractures on his spine, but worst of all, he says, is his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mejia spent more than three and a half years at the Army Warrior Transition Unit at Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington. "If you're at the WTU, take full advantage of it. Talk to your nurse case managers, your leadership and social workers, map out a plan and follow through. Talk about what is going on in your life and your loved ones' life." Mejia said. "I've learned that talking about your emotions and things affecting you or your family has helped me so much - you have many resources around you, use them. Talk to a social worker. I did."

Mejia says he owes everything to his wife Melinda, who embraced those resources with him at the WTU from physical recovery to career building opportunities. "My wife was there for me, since day one. She transferred me from my bed at home to the wheelchair, into our car and vise-versa for about 3 years."

Mejia pressed forward growing his family and his career opportunities. The proud father of three took a chance this summer and it paid off. "I knew Boeing was the place to be, so I applied online and within a month I was hired!" He is now a community investor working with Veterans in what he calls, "a very heavy Veteran employed company." Many of his fellow employees share a common bond and they all had leadership skills that brought them to a quintessential career.

"Yes, many of us might be or feel at 75% with the injuries or disabilities we have, but know that our 75% is better than other people's 100%, because of the training, leadership skills and experience we learned with the military," Mejia said. "If you are assigned to the WTU, take it as another step in life, you will learn new things and meet many different people who are there for you."