I Got Blown Up in Iraq. Years Later, Amputating My Leg Set Me Free.

I only have flashes of memory from getting hit in a roadside bomb attack near Balad, Iraq, on Oct. 4, 2005. I saw the concerned driver reaching out to shake me awake, but at the time I couldn’t recall who he was. With growing panic, I realized that I couldn’t remember my interpreter’s name or what information I needed to get from my source who had brought me out on my 12th convoy in 12 days. I’d worked with an infantry team of U.S. and Iraqi troops for months, but their faces were suddenly unrecognizable. Something was wrong.

Stepping out of the truck, the sun was too bright through my sunglasses, noises too loud but indistinguishable in my bleeding ears. A searing jolt shot up my right leg with every step. I tumbled partway down a hill, feeling my ankle give out despite having it wrapped and my boot laces pulled as tight as possible.

Two weeks earlier on a remote mission to gather information about an oil field, I had been in a collision that killed three Iraqis and wounded multiple others, including four of us who were in an armored truck. The impact had thrown me forward with