Hometown hero wins gold, inspires others
Navy vet nearly killed in local robbery proves strength at Invictus Games
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Navy veteran who was nearly killed after he was shot in 2012, is proving his strength. Last week, Brett Parks competed in Prince Harry's international Invictus Games in Orlando despite losing part of his leg in the shooting.
More than 400 competitors from 13 nations took part in the sporting event for wounded, injured and sick service members. Teammates call Parks a fierce competitor as he competed on the sitting volleyball team and swimming races for Team USA.
Parks' wife Susan and two kids (with one more is on the way) watched as Team USA's sitting volleyball team beat the Netherlands (25-10, 25-17) in the semi-finals at the HP Field House inside Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports park on May 10.
That evening, Parks and the rest of his team faced off against the U.K.'s all-star team. Prince Harry David, obviously rooting for Great Britain, watched from the stands.
It was a tight match but Parks and the Americans prevailed, winning the gold medal after a tie-breaker in the third round of play.
It was truly an inspirational moment for all of the heroes who have come so far.
"If you would have told me the day after I woke up, a week after I woke up from a coma that I would be here today competing on an international level, I would've told you, you were crazy," Parks told News4Jax. "And I probably would have thrown my food tray at you."
Four years ago, Parks was as good as dead. The Sailor, who was working as a personal trainer part-time, was just trying to help stop a robbery outside an apartment complex near Jacksonville's St. Johns Town Center. Parks confronted the gunman, who pulled the trigger.
"The first thing I thought was I can't believe I got shot," Parks said. "And the second thing I thought was, I am going to die today."
The bullet ricocheted through his body and pierced his organs.
"I had a .001 percent chance of survival according to the doctors," he said.
Parks was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. He was in a coma for 20 days.
"When I woke up my leg was gone," he said. "It was a whole lot of pain and a whole lot of panic for a while."
He's come a very long way since then -- showing his remarkable strength again and again.
On May 11, the morning after winning gold in sitting volleyball, Parks dove back in. He swam in the 50-meter freestyle and the 200-meter relay, taking home the silver medal.
"I could've died at any time," he said. "I could've just given up. And said oh, you know what, I'm tired. I'm going to go to sleep. But there's always another day after that. And you have to fight until the very end."
This “Miracle Man,” as his doctors and friends call him, is spreading that message with the world now. He wrote a book called Miracle Man: A Bullet that Ignited a Purpose-Filled Life.
He travels and speaks with his ministry, Second Shot Ministry.
Despite what happened, Parks' life is moving forward and his journey is inspiring others.
"Life is great," he said. "Someone asked me a couple months back, they asked me, 'Was it worth it? You went and helped somebody and look at you now.' Which kind of shocked me a little bit that they came at me like that. And that kind of ringing in my ears for a little while. Was it worth it? And I came back to her and I said, 'Doing the right thing is always worth it. No matter the consequence. And if faced against that challenge again, that situation, I would do it over and over. Because that was the right thing to do.'"
The man who shot Parks, Courtney Phillips, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
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