Yesterday I visited Hines VA Hospital to cover the visit of a high-ranking military official as he toured the facilities. It was during lunch at the blind center where I came across Joel, who was blinded in both eyes, lost his right leg and four fingers on his left had, and suffered a traumatic brain injury and third-degree burns across 60 percent of his body in a rocket attack that killed three others in the truck he was riding in in Iraq. At the time, he was one of the most seriously wounded soldiers to ever survive such injuries.
What shocked me about Joel wasn’t his appearance, but how upbeat and genuinely happy he seemed despite his circumstances. He was by far the most seriously injured and youngest veteran in the blind center, but also the most charismatic, laughing and joking most of the time that I saw him.
It’s pretty safe to say Joel was one of the most inspiring people I’ve met in awhile.