SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- One hundred twenty-nine pints of blood poured into Lt. Col. Greg Gadson's body in the single night that Soldiers, doctors and a vast team of others brought together by a roadside bomb fought together to save his life.
"I am here today because my team saved my life. And I like to say it twice. I am here today, sitting here on the stage, or walking through the room, because my team saved my life," said Gadson, joined on the Ledward Theater stage by his wife, Kim, for a talk with the Schweinfurt community Tuesday.
Gadson, a four-year letterman as a football player at West Point, talked at length about teams, especially the one comprised of his Soldiers that night.
"They were, and are, exactly like you all in the crowd," he said, made of Soldiers from all walks of life. "That team worked together every day and, on one special night, they made a difference in saving my life."
"It was medical personnel. It was Soldiers, people doing what they were trained to do, putting all their effort into me being here. I'm living proof of the nation's commitment of people in uniform's commitment that we're behind you," he said.
Gadson was headed back to his headquarters in Iraq, May 7, 2007, after having attended a memorial service for two fallen Soldiers earlier in the day, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised exploding device.
"In a moment (my life) changed. And so I recognize how fragile life is. So, like I said, tomorrow's not promised. So let's make the most of every day," said Gadson, who lost both legs above the knee.
Kim Gadson talked about the challenges they have faced along with their two children, and urged the audience to build, maintain and improve a network of friends to help in that time of need.
"I know that each of you has a very similar Army family, whether you are a servicemember or a civilian in the community," she said, adding that professional help has been an important part of their physical and emotional recovery.
"I would encourage you to get other assistance if you need it," she said. "Your own trauma is very personal to you, and you don't need to compare it with anybody else's trauma. But sometimes you do need some help."
The Gadsons followed their presentation by taking questions from audience members, several of whom were fellow wounded warriors seeking some advice and guidance from someone who has faced the challenge of getting better.
"Just remember it's your mission to get better. That's your aim point," Lt. Col. Gadson said. "A lot of times, getting better is not getting back to where you were before ... that may be impossible. You've got to understand what the new better is going to be, the new normal is going to be."
A critical junction during Gadson's physical recovery came with overcoming a fear of falling.
"A lot of times we're afraid to try things because we're afraid to fail," he said, explaining what he had to tell himself to overcome his fear. "I'm not going to be afraid to fall. I am going to fall. That is part of my existence."