The stuttering is what caught my attention. He was a tall, rugged looking guy who had no outward signs of trauma or disability. The kind of guy who you’d strike up a conversation about football or latest UFC fight. But he had trouble getting his words out. They wanted to come out, and I’m sure he wanted them to, but it just wasn’t happening. It was like his tongue had a mind of it’s own. A deep breath and another try yielded better results.

Meet Scott Thorne, a twenty something Army vet with a sniper’s bullet in his head.

Thorne was one of many who I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing while shooting a Sports Illustrated assignment a couple of years ago about newly injured veterans learning to play and compete in sports. Some were missing arms, some had no legs, several were sight impaired and many had Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) resulting from roadside bombs and other ordinance. But all had the most uplifting outlooks. I didn’t meet one who wanted sympathy.

While paddling for a wave with one arm, Gregory Reynolds simply smiled and laughed at his struggles. He made it up on the board, as did others, but to prove his spirit for resiliency was uninjured, Reynolds dropped down to do one-armed push-ups on the beach.

On Veterans Day when we stop to honor those who’ve sacrificed for their country, pay mind that they don’t want your sympathy but they deserve your respect.

Todd Bigelow Photography

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