Recently three members of our Operation Enduring Warrior team were selected for the Department of Veteran Affairs Suicide Prevention Outreach Program 2017 Campaign: Be There. Each of them wanted to share their personal stories of loss, struggle, and ultimately, strength and resilience in the face of adversity. OEW applauds their continual efforts within their communities to be the voice of strength and empowerment for those who have lost hope. September is Suicide Prevention Month. If you are, or know of, someone who is struggling with hopelessness and despair, please reach out today and ask for the help that is there at the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255.
Meet Earl Granville
I joined the Army National Guard my senior year of high school in 2000 after my twin brother and my cousin Paul signed up as Infantryman. I decided to join them in pursuit of a college education.
In 2008, while deployed to Afghanistan, my vehicle hit a roadside bomb; which resulted in my left leg being amputated and my right leg salvaged. Two of my comrades, SPC Derek Holland and MAJ Scott Hagerty, passed away instantly. I left the Middle East with an optimistic point of view. I felt lucky at to have a second chance at life and wanted to spend my time just learning a new, healthy way to live as an amputee. During my rehab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center I found myself among many other severely combat wounded service members, mostly with a very positive attitude taking on these new challenges they faced ahead. I assumed everything was going to be okay…
Well, December of 2010, my twin brother, Army SSG Joe Granville, took his own life. He left behind a family. Out of all the adversities I faced after losing my leg, I realized it was nothing compared to losing a loved one to suicide…this, unfortunately, dragged me down a very dark path of very bad and selfish decisions. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I drank myself stupid and hurt the ones I care about so many times, that when I was sober I just felt so guilty.
One day at a pub, someone came up to me and told me that they knew who I was through Joe. They told me how proud my late brother was of me for being happy after losing my leg and for continuing to physically challenge myself after my amputation. I took that conversation and ran with it. I slowed down on my drinking and started doing events in honor of my brother. For Joe, I ran my first 5k as an amputee, I ruck marched the Army 10-miler, was introduced to Crossfit, and many others.
Eventually, in 2013, I was approached by my friend Amanda Sullivan, who is a civilian adaptive athlete herself. She asked if I’d like to run a Spartan Race in Wintergreen, Virginia. I had done many mud runs, but never a Spartan. During this race, I was introduced to the masked athlete team of Operation Enduring Warrior. From what I knew at the time, OEW was a team made up of veterans who wear gas masks during events assisting wounded veterans get through the course and reach their physical goals. Somebody on the team asked what my thoughts were on joining?
It was the best decision I have ever made. OEW has taught me that I have no limits in my amputation. I went from believing “I can’t do that” to “I can do that, it just may take me a little longer”. Since joining OEW, I have lived a much healthier life and it brought back my confidence all around. One of the most rewarding experiences being a part of this team is working together as my fellow wounded brothers and sisters destroy what obstacles are ahead of them. From Nick Koulchar running his first OCR to Matthew Bradford handbiking a half marathon.
Outside of OEW, I now publicly speak about my experiences after losing my brother and my ideas to society about what may help those currently struggling mentally… from squashing the stigma of mental health, to stepping outside of comfort zones, to battling both physical and mental struggles toward finding a new passion and purpose to be a part of something again. The rest of OEW probably doesn’t even realize it, but this organization is what showed me this new way of life, and I hope others who want to challenge themselves alongside us feel the same way.
Like I heard a good friend of mine once say, “I’ve learned that the best way to overcome my own obstacles is to help people with theirs”. – Wounded Veteran of the Iraq War
Fight the good fight, comrades. Remember, no matter what life throws at you, never accept defeat.