Q: Can you tell us how the fateful events of September 11, 2001 played into your decision to enter the military instead of the medical field, as you previously had planned?
My family was not in New York City, Washington D.C. or Pennsylvania on that day. But they could have been. If somebody were to break into my home and attempt to harm my family, I would shoot them. September 11th was no different. As I watched the events of that terrible day on television, I knew that something had to be done and I decided that I would never be accused of doing nothing when it was in my power and responsibility to do something. Thousands of innocent people were slaughtered that day. Preventing another such attack was every American’s responsibility. If a man knows the right thing to do and chooses not do it, he is guilty. Someday I will answer for my wrongdoings, but I will never be found guilty of passivity.
Q: You were blown up in Afghanistan not once, but twice! Can you briefly tell us about your encounter with the suicide bomber?
We had a blast.
Q: People often refer to you as the “Blown Up Guy” and your website is BlownUpGuy.com. How did that title originate?
I don’t typically refer to myself by that title because there are thousands of other guys just like me who have been blown up while fighting this war just like I have, but it’s what I’ve become recognized as. While going out and speaking, telling my story, distributing my books and being in the public eye, people would always come up to me and say, “Hey, you’re that guy who got blown up!” They couldn’t remember my name, but they remembered that much. To have a website called BlownUpGuy.com just made sense. It made it easy for people to find me. Not only that, people have actually found that title to be funny in many cases (which was not my original intention), and that has made it even more memorable and easier to spread a message of hope to others who have been hurt.
Q: How did you arrive at a place of forgiveness for the suicide bomber?
I wrote my thoughts on a piece of paper one day. It turned into a letter to the suicide bomber (which he will obviously never read). I began writing about the horrific pain of burning and realizing, though mine was temporary, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to end up in a place where I believe he is now. That terrorist would have ultimately won the war over me, even in death, if I would have carried the burden of hate with me for the remainder of my lifetime. There was no way I was going to let that happen. He failed in life and he failed in death. He’s dead and I’m alive. It was time to move on. I’ve never lived a better life since almost losing it.
Q: What part did your faith play in your physical and emotional recovery?
My faith gave everything a purpose for happening. Even in the midst of all the fire and pain, when I couldn’t find a reason for it all happening, I knew with certainty that one existed. It was my job to find it. The power was in the searching because I began discovering as a result. Finding is reserved for those willing to search. To begin something and then make progress is one of the keys to living a fulfilled life because progression breeds contentment.
Q: What do you hope that audiences—whether through radio, television, personal appearances or books—will gain from hearing your story?
What happens to you in life isn’t nearly as important as what you choose to do with what happens to you in life. Don’t hide the scars. Don’t be afraid to let them show because someone who is hurting will see themselves in you. And there’s healing in knowing you’re not the only one. One of the greatest keys to my recovery was getting the focus off of myself and onto others. As we help others heal, we ourselves are healed. The people we have the privilege of sharing our lives with are all we truly have.
Q: Obviously, you feel that developing leadership is part of your mission as you speak a great deal to businesses, college students and other organizations on the subject. Would you share a couple of the most important leadership lessons you learned while in the military?
Make decisions and hold yourself accountable for them.
Hope for the best and be the best. Then, expect and prepare for the very worst.
Discipline is one of the greatest words in the English language and should be embraced by anybody who claims they desire to grow or succeed.
Q: Dave Roever, a badly burned Vietnam vet who has been speaking and writing for years, has become your friend and mentor. What is the most valuable truth that he has taught you?
Dave taught me that the greatest investment you will ever make is an investment in the lives of other people. Life is about others.
Q: What exciting projects are coming up in your future?
Presently, I have a teaching series coming out on personal development called “The Practical Science of Personal Achievement.”
Q: Had you always planned on writing a book about your war experience?
My book Never the Same began as journal entries I was keeping while fighting the war in Afghanistan. I had no idea what life the book would take on if it ever became one, given that few things are predictable in war. The stories were written as they took place. I was unable to use my hands for 8-10 months after having reconstructive surgery done on my hands due to the third-degree burns that nearly destroyed them, but I eventually continued my writing and completed the book.
B.C. Fleming is available for speaking opportunities.
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