By Emily Oehler, WTC StratComm
While I was on the road this week, I saw a bumper sticker that struck me—“Life is Tough, Play Hard.” It immediately brought to mind a wounded veteran that I recently had the joy to meet. And when I say joy, I mean it.
Being around Scott brought me joy. When I met him, he felt like a mischievous little brother. Someone I connect to. Someone I wanted to protect. Someone I could be silly with. Joy.
For Scott, life is tough—at least from my perspective. He’s got third and fourth degree burns over 66% of his body, is missing his left leg below the knee, and has a barely functioning left arm. I cannot imagine how tough things have/can be. But, as tough has his challenges are, he plays even harder. He and his BAMC burn unit buddies are never at a loss for a quick joke, hilarious story, or one-liner. He had me laughing, nearly to tears, every time I saw him—shouting out things like:
- Burn guys are hot!
- Girls dig extra crispy!
- When I’m hot, I’m on fire!
- Don’t make me give you the third degree!
While many might not find these things funny or appropriate—it’s the playfulness about life’s hardships that often get us through, and at least make it more joyful along the way.
Scott’s playfulness about this severe injury relaxed me and allowed me to talk more openly with him and ask questions and learn. I learned about airborne pride. I learned about the risks of being a SAW gunner. I learned about shearing, blisters, heat/cold intolerance, and how hard it is to fit a prosthetic to burnt skin. I learned that he has a girlfriend. I learned he’s in college with the goal of opening up his own bar and grill.
I learned that his tattoos, that look like weathered and withered tree bark, follow the pattern on his skin that was disfigured from gasoline / IED. I learned that living with burns feels like having saran wrap tight around your body—that you can’t feel the breeze on your skin. I learned about the non-profit he started with his mom to help other burned service members.
But most importantly, I learned to look past the scars.
Scott—thanks for the joy, the laughter, and the learning. Keep playing hard!