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“I try to put myself on a pedestal to be better, stronger, faster.”

“Do I still have my leg?” was James Stuck’s first question when he awoke in urgent care. He was injured on December 20, 2005, when his convoy struck a roadside bomb near his base in Kirkuk, Iraq. The explosion flipped his Humvee upside-down and drove shrapnel through his leg.

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James came to find that his right leg had been amputated just below the knee. It this was an overwhelming truth to take in. James spent one year recovering at the Medical Center in D.C., where it was a struggle to familiarize himself with his prosthetic and adjust emotionally to life as an amputee.

Family and friends, who provide love and support, are often instrumental in the recovery and re-acclimation of heroes like James: “The positive reinforcement that I received from my family was priceless,” he says, and his friends “provided me with goals to accomplish.”

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And nothing would stop him short of achieving those goals. James has since competed fiercely with the U.S. Paralympic Volleyball team in games around the world and has brought home a plethora of awards, including silver medal wins in the Parapan Games of Guadalajara, Mexico; Denver, Colorado; and Rio de Janiero, Brazil; a gold medal win at the Parapan American Championship in Montreal, Canada; and an impeccable record in international competition.

“I look at myself and my injuries that I have sustained and put very few limits on myself,” says James; “I try to put myself on a pedestal to be better, stronger, faster.”

Truthfully, James has never looked back. In his words, it is “all about getting out there and doing things and testing limits.” And he has yet to find his. To have come through such a harrowing experience with such renewed enthusiasm for life and to be achieving what he is achieving is a resounding testament to the fighting spirit of the American hero. “I have done more with one leg,” James reflects, “than I did with two.”