Bleill addresses large crowd at South Adams
For Marine Corporal Josh Bleill, there was no doubt about the day that changed his life. It was Oct. 15, 2006. Bleill was in his vehicle in Iraq when the explosion of bombs went off.
For Bleill, all went black. He wasn't aware that fellow Marines had literally run to his vehicle that had exploded in flames and sacrificed their lives to rescue him. It wasn't until he woke up in a hospital in Germany that he slowly became aware of what had happened.
His sergeant had been killed in the explosion, as had one of his best friends that had been to his left. He had lost both legs and had multiple injuries including a broken jaw, broken nose and four broken fingers.
"I was hurt; I was scared and I was angry," recalled Bleill to a full crowd at South Adams High School Gym on Wednesday night. "I was angry with God, angry that He had allowed this."
It was way too early in the journey of Bleill's changed life for him to begin to comprehend what had happened, what was going to be and what dynamic opportunities were going to come his way because of the devastating injury.
Bleill was transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital to begin a long recovery and adjustment to a new way of life without physical legs. One day he was sitting in his wheel chair, realizing his disabling plight. He had dropped to 115 pounds; emotionally, he didn't want anyone to see him looking weak.
"As I started the recovery process, I didn't want to leave," Bleill said. "People tried to talk me into going out to do things and I kept saying, 'no.' I just wanted to be alone and refrain from being seen in public."
Then a close friend found the key that unlocked Bleill's heart. He offered the former Greenfield, Indiana athlete a ticket to attend the Super Bowl game between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. It was an offer that even Bleill, in his mentally defeated state, couldn't turn down. It was a major step in his new life.
"It was the first time I had left the hospital," said Bleill. "For me, it was much bigger than a football game. It was the first time I'd been in front of tens of thousands of people.
"I didn't care," said Bleill. "I realized that God had given me this platform. I greatly admired Coach Dungy and the Colts program. It was a new beginning for me."
That beginning included a transfer to Walter Reed Medical Center where work began on his "new legs." During that time, Bleill also began to get things in focus, spiritually and mentally.
"I began to realize that it wasn't God who took my legs from me but the world," commented Bleill. "God had a bigger plan for me. As I began to walk (on prosthetics), each day was a new challenge with hope for me."
It was while he was at Walter Reed, that Bleill got a real glimpse of his future. Members of the Indianapolis Colts came through and visited him. During that visit, the owner of the Colts told him that when his rehabilitation was near completion, he would fly him to Indianapolis and they would talk about a job.
Eventually, that day came and Bleill was hired to represent the Colts as a community spokesperson.
"It made me get out of my comfort zone, but I was so excited about what God had done for me, I was able to do that," said Bleill. "I saw new things I hadn't seen before, such as the fact that God surrounds us with the right people at the right time. "
Those planning the evening had initiated it with the motto utilized by the Colts as their team them, "Faith, Family, Football." The event began with the presentation of the colors by representatives of the Museum of the Soldier, area VFW's and area American Legions.
In addition to a very moving rendition of, "The Star Spangled Banner," by a quartet from the First Missionary Church, a special presentation by Stephania Taylor, mother of fallen Berne veteran Nick Taylor, was followed by singing of, "More Than a Name on the Wall," by South Adams students Brittany Hernandez and Sidney Sprunger.
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