After 40 reconstructive surgeries and more than a decade of recovery, Todd N. is using the story behind his Purple Heart medal to inspire others.
In August 2007, Todd was riding in the passenger seat of a two-truck convoy through the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. Todd was serving as a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army in logistics. What began as a typical day ended as a turning point in Todd’s life when a suicide bomber struck Todd’s side of the vehicle, engulfing it in fire.
Fortunately, a fellow soldier was able to pull Todd from the flames. He was transported to a nearby military base, where he was placed on a ventilator before being evacuated for further treatment.
“I spent 30 days in a coma in the intensive care unit,” explains Todd. “The team at Fort Sam Houston’s Brooke Army Medical Center (in San Antonio, Texas) performed a number of life-saving surgeries before I was even aware of what happened. They were amazing.”
Afterward, Todd underwent a series of medical procedures to address severe burns on his head and much of his body, a broken jaw, save one of his eyes and assess his mental state.
“I went into reconstructive surgery every 90 days for the next two-and-a-half years,” says Todd.
Todd’s wife and their two daughters, who were 10 and 13 at the time, were there to support him through his recovery. The journey, he says, has been difficult for them all.
“They were another casualty, in a way,” says Todd. “Combat injuries impact everyone, not just the soldier. It’s difficult for them to see the way their husband and father is looked at in public. But I hope that the fact that I keep going serves as a source of strength for them.”
Nearly three years after the incident, Todd says he made the decision to medically retire from the Army.
“My options in the military were limited, so I made the difficult choice to hang up the uniform and start a new chapter,” he says.
That new chapter took off in 2011, when Todd was hired by USAA as a talent programs advisor with an emphasis on disabled veteran initiatives.
“During the last 10 years, I’ve gone from HR to chief operations office and now Bank omnichannel,” explains Todd, a development product owner lead. “I’m looking forward to another six years of happy experiences here at USAA before I retire.”
Outside of work, Todd travels the country sharing his story with various groups.
“There are so many combat injuries that you will never see,” says Todd. “I want to be a reminder of what people have given in service of our country. I want to be a spokesman for those with injuries you can’t see that nobody will thank them for.”
Read more: 10 Things to Remember on Purple Heart Day