JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Wounded Warrior who lives in Jacksonville on Wednesday was presented with the life-saving body armor he was wearing during an attack in Iraq in 2007.
Bryan Wagner is the soldier who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 (pictured below), despite losing part of his leg while serving his country.
The last time Wagner saw the body amour that saved his life, he was wearing it.
"Holy Moly! I'm really glad I was wearing it now," he said when he saw it. "I remember picking those plates up and not being very happy about them. A lot of my buddies weren't happy about them because that's extra weight to go with your combat load."
Wagner knew at a young age he wanted to be in the Army.
"One of the big reasons I enlisted was Sept. 11," he said. "I was a sophomore in high school when it happened and I just remember seeing that and wanting to hold those guys accountable for it."
Wagner said 9/11 changed his life, and so did his "alive day." Solders call an alive day the day they should have died but didn't. Wagner's was Dec. 17, 2007.
He was a gunner in a Humvee in Iraq when his right leg below the knee was blown off by a large improvised explosive device during combat. But without the armored plate he was wearing, he may have lost more than just his leg.
Another solider recalls how much fighting was going on in that part of Iraq at the time.
"It was a very -- to say the least -- it was a hopping place to be at at the time," said Command Sgt. Major Emmett Maunakea.
"I'm not going to say I wasn't afraid because everybody is afraid to die. Let's be real," Wagner said. "But I was comfortable with it, especially doing it in the name of my country."
Wagner made the choice to amputate his leg in the hospital.
"I remember thinking that I'm a cripple now; what am I going to do?" he said.
What he was determined to do was live an active life.
"It's a small thing to lose a leg. I mean, really it's not in the grand scheme of things," Wagner said. "It's not really that big of a deal."
Wagner said disability is only a state of mind, and he's not letting it deter him.
"Just get your mind right. It's not over, and plus, you have awesome parking for life," he said. "So I really can't complain."
Wagner is currently in college going to school to become a physical therapist for other wounded warriors.
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