Support our mission

Eric Engelhardt, 29, brand manager, Team Red White and Blue:

“Ever since I was a little boy I only wanted to be a soldier. That was the only thing I wanted to be my entire life. Ao when I turned 18, I joined the army … like my father had. And I wanted to be a Green Beret. That’s a Special Forces soldier. I knew the path was going to be long – two years – and it was all for this little 2-inch by like 1-inch patch that you can actually like go and buy tonight on Amazon. So its kind of ironic that I would go through that kind of torture for just a patch.

I made it through, I got to a team and we deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. We’d go out on patrol and – BOOM – an IED goes off. Two feet below me. A homemade explosive device ejects me into the air 20 feet and I cartwheel. And like the good airborne soldier that I was, I landed feet, ass, head. I land next to my vehicle, my vehicle is on fire. I look down. My right leg is shattered. My back – I didn’t know it at time - is broken. My left leg is broken. My tail bone. And I - I was the lone survivor in my vehicle.

The other three people in my vehicle they had died. I got Medevaced, to Walter Reed eventually, and I spent the next 6 months there recovering. And from there I spent the next half decade recovering both physically and mentally. I was living my life sacrificial for the men in my truck who had died. I didn’t think I could be happy because they were dead. It makes no sense. But that’s how I was thinking. Like why should I be happy? And it took me a long time to get over that.

But now the reason I am telling you this story is because – I am a grinder. I shouldn’t be a Special Forces guy. Look at me. I am 170 pounds soaking wet. I am not the biggest guy, not the smartest guy. But I persevere. I don’t give up. I don’t look back on my six years spent in the Army as my glory years. Those aren’t the best years of my life. I still have the best years of my life ahead of me. I am going to continue every day to do better than I was the day before. So I challenge you all to not define yourself by a 2-inch by one-inch tab or a piece of paper on your wall or a diploma. I challenge you to define yourself by what you did today and by what you are gonna do tomorrow. Thank you.”

Other stories ... Lt. Cmdr. Matt Fetterman

Tom Chaby

John Roy

Aaron Littles

Susan Tamme

Det. Ronald Paulk

Scott Fetterman

Kiersten Downs

Capt. David Taliaferro

Lt. Cmdr. Mark Fetterman

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up