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The Miracle Man

Anthony" A-Train" Smith

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Anthony “A-Train” Smith, an Iraq war veteran, was seriously wounded overseas and lost parts of his arm, leg, hip, and spinal cord, and the sight in his right eye. On stage, though, he never dwelled on his own recovery or the challenges he faced dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Instead he spoke about combating the stigma attached to PTSD.

Norley, who’s now attending medical school, revealed to the room that friends from her old military unit had treated Smith for both his physical and mental wounds. It was a coincidence they only stumbled upon this morning, and one that was clearly emotional for Norley. “I’m a little shaken up by that right now,” she said of the surprising discovery, “because I’m very proud of them, but I’m also proud to see the results.” The results referred to Smith, a picture of strength and conviction, sitting just to her left where he commanded the room from his chair.

Before deploying to Iraq, Smith had held a job on the police force in his Arkansas town. But he found when he came home that his old bosses, worked up by their misconceptions of PTSD, no longer trusted him to serve as a cop. “They saw so many different movies about PTSD they just automatically assumed that I was going to crack up,” Smith said before adding, “I want to break that stereotype and let them know that all of us want to come back and want to serve in our community.”

Smith has found time—when he’s not teaching martial arts to kids and working as a minister—to continue competing in and winning Tae Kwon Doe competitions. He recently won the Arkansas state championship in Tae Kwon Doe and has no plans to slow down. “I plan on going to beat somebody up this weekend,” he joked. Though they're not competing in martial arts like Smith is, Norley and Gabbard both looked capable of administering their own beatings should the need have arisen. Yet, the two combat veterans both described the aggravation of returning from war to condescending remarks from men who hadn’t served themselves but automatically assumed that their service must have been somehow sheltered or less difficult than that of their male peers. Norley responded by challenging people to pushup contests. She’s undefeated. Gabbard, who’s had to field insulting questions from some male colleagues in Congress, said of her combat experience: “It’s no different, it’s not so much this is what it feels like to be a woman. You’re a soldier first, like every one else you serve with. That’s the experience, and that’s what you bring back.”

READ FULL STORY on the Daily Beast