Cpl (Ret.) Paul Gardner
Paul was wounded during the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq when his platoon was engaged in a firefight with more than 100 Fedayeen Fighters in the Baghdad suburb of Al Tarymiah, which at the time had yet to be cleared by Coalition Forces. While he was reloading his rifle, an enemy fighter took advantage of the situation and fired off a burst with his AK47 assault rifle, with one of the bullets scoring a hit just under Paul's left armpit. The bullet destroyed his spleen -which had to be removed- collapsed his left lung and completely severed his spinal cord, instantly and permanently leaving him paralyzed from the waist down and relegating him to a manual wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Paul is a true warrior, as he was ordered to stay behind with the Amphibious Assault Vehicles at the intersection where his platoon was initially ambushed by the enemy, but when he heard an enormous volume of small arms gunfire and explosions coming from his fellow Marines' position 500 yards away, he rushed to the aid of his comrades and joined the fight. he was able to take out 2 enemy fighters before being shot himself. Paul's squad mates immediately killed the insurgent that shot him and came to his aid, evacuating him out of harm's way under enemy fire and keeping him conscious for the next 45 minutes until he could be flown by helicopter to a field hospital. He had lost almost all of his blood by the time he arrived there, where surgeons immediately performed lifesaving surgery. Paul says that when he finally woke up almost two weeks later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, "It was the biggest surprise of my life that I was actually still alive."
Since his injury more than 6 years ago, Paul has spent a total of two and a half years in and out of the VA Hospital in Houston, and has had around 20 surgeries in all. He is 100% independent and is able to do almost anything he did prior to his injury. He married his beautiful wife Ashley two years ago and will soon be going back to school.