Bryan Anderson loves to snowboard, ski, skateboard and rock climb — all of which he does without legs.
The Iraq veteran lost both legs and his left hand after an improvised explosive device went off while he was deployed in 2005.
Anderson spoke about his experiences in Iraq and since then to WKU students and community members Tuesday night at Downing University Center.
“As you see me now, there’s not a lot I can’t do,” he said. “Yeah, I’m in a wheelchair but I’m not disabled in any way.”
Although Anderson now says nothing has changed, he did at one point go through a depressed phase. He said after the accident, he had been in the hospital for four months and he forgot what life was like.
It took a trip to Las Vegas to see his best friend, and a call from his brother, to snap him out of it. Anderson’s brother gave him a Rise Against CD, and Anderson said he listened to the song “Survivor.”
“That resonated in me and I felt like I grabbed the first rung of that ladder and was pulling myself out of that hole,” he said.
Anderson is the recipient of a Purple Heart award, has been featured on the cover of Esquire magazine and has made guest appearances on a few television shows. A few months ago he worked with USA Cares to start the Sgt. Brian Anderson Jobs for Kentucky Veteran’s Fund.
“It’s important for everybody to get jobs, especially returning veterans because they have great work skills that don’t get utilized,” he said.
Besides finding jobs for veterans, Anderson said they are also helping veterans prepare for the work force.
WKU alumnus Capt. Tyler Rice said Anderson’s attitude about life is inspiring.
“I wish more people thought like that,” Rice said. “It’s a great outlook on life.”
Rice is also an Iraq veteran and is currently working full time in the National Guard in Bowling Green.
Prior to Anderson’s speech, singer and songwriter John Parr performed a few of his songs, including the 1980’s hit “St. Elmo’s Fire.”
Parr said after visiting America in the 1980s and seeing how veterans were treated back then, which he said was unfavorably, that he decided he wanted to raise awareness for charities that help veterans.
“The military are ordinary people that are trained to do extraordinary things,” he said. “But then they must come back and be ordinary people again. I want to help ease that transition.”
Parr also played a song he just finished writing the night before and that nobody had heard before, called “Nothing Has Changed.” He said it was dedicated to Anderson.
“The words hero and extraordinary are not used lightly,” Parr said. “And I couldn’t think of anyone more fitting or deserving of the words than Bryan.”