ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A group of alumni and students at the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences will hear Saturday from a man who has taken on adversity, used his military mindset and got some help from some of the best doctors to get his life back.
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Luke Murphy, now a motivational speaker, will talk to the group about his experiences.
Murphy is now living with a reality faced by members of the military. Some that deploy come back the way they left, some don't come back at all, and others, like Murphy, come back with injuries that will forever change their lives. That's why Murphy is doing what he now does.
The day was April 25th, 2006. Murphy, in the 101st Airborne Division, was in the front right seat of a Humvee leaving Sadr City after a recon mission when a bomb detonated under the vehicle. Murphy, was in the front right seat.
The first one blew my right leg off. I had my M-4 in my lap and it blew that in half and my left leg was blown in half," Murphy said.
Two others in Murphy's vehicle were injured in the blast. Murphy spent months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center going through nearly 30 surgeries before trying to learn to walk again.
"The first time I stood up, all the blood went down and did not come back up because of all the damage in my leg. I think I stood for 18 seconds and that was my first day of physical therapy. That was on my prosthetic, we had worked for months just to get to this point," Murphy said.
Murphy now takes the adversity that he faced since the blast and uses it to provide motivation and inspiration to others. He said that when he thought he couldn't push himself any further, his physical therapists made him.
"They really put me back together again. They gave me the confidence to do things I didn't think I could do and that led to more things I didn't think I could do, which was really the foundation for beating this injury," Murphy said.
"The smiling faces of occupational therapists and physical therapists are very special when you're down and out. He was on his back and the OT's and PT's come in and say, "we're here to help you, we're here to get you back to life as best as we possibly can," Dr. Scott Love, professor at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences said.
One of the courses at University of St Augustine teaches therapists about prosthetics. They are also doing research to create the most advanced prosthetics available.
"He's a true example of what we need to do with our veterans to get them back to functioning. The more they function, the more they get out and do work, and the more they do recreational activities, the less time they have to get down in the dumps or get depressed and let the symptoms of PTSD get to them," Love said.
Murphy has not let the adversity hold him back. He has completed marathons with a hand cycle, climbed mountains and skied black diamonds slopes. He even co-authored a book "Blasted by Adversity, The Making of a Wounded Warrior" about his experiences. He said that he hopes him sharing his experiences can provide hope to others that may be in a similar position.
"You're bigger than the injury. It's just an injury. It doesn't change who you are, it may change how you do things, but it won't ever define you. You're bigger than it is," Murphy said. "I thought if I accepted defeat, the bad guys won, and I was never going to give them that credit. They didn't kill me, they tried really hard, and I'm still here."
Murphy now lives in Tallahassee, where he graduated from Florida State University, and is a partner in a realty firm.