Put the fear in a drawer

Overview

Dan Berschinski is a former Army Ranger who was severely wounded during his first tour of duty to Afghanistan in 2009. 

After stepping on an IED, Dan lost one leg above the knee, the other leg at the hip, and sustained a number of other serious injuries.

Miraculously, after three-and-a-half years of rehab, Dan became the military’s first above-the-knee and hip-disarticulation amputee to walk on a daily basis. 

During our conversation, we hear from Dan about being wounded, confronting a loss of identity, finding sources of resilience, and the power of rehabbing with other soldiers.

Highlights

19:15 – “This is one of those moments where you’re scared s***less, but you just have to open up a drawer in your brain and put that fear inside of it, and then close the drawer and say, ‘I’ll deal with it later.’”

22:15 – “I just felt this tremendous pressure. It felt like a fly-swatter had come down from the sky and smashed me on the head.”

35:15 – “My entire identity was kinda wrapped up in my physical capabilities. I’m a Ranger, Airborne-qualified infantry officer, and now I can’t even roll myself in a wheel chair up a steep hill. And God forbid there’s a curb in front of me.”

36:15 “Some days I would look across the room and see soldiers whose wounds were worse than mine. And that was probably the hardest part. Feeling like I was lucky.”

39:15 – “On a daily basis it was motivating and cool [to rehab with other soldiers]. But of course, the overarching truth was that there were a lot of young lives altered, if not destroyed.”

43:20 – “Those that succeeded and those that failed, to speak very broadly – it just came down to the traits that are obvious: Who’s got support, who’s faced adversity before, who understands that they have a meaning in life beyond the military.”

48:20 – “I almost died in Afghanistan. I know lots of friends who have died and they would be more than happy to sit at home during Covid and wear a mask while walking around the grocery store but unfortunately they’ll never get to do that.”

49:00 – “I know what it’s like to have your identity tied up in a job and have that job ripped away from you. And then to have to find a new purpose and a new meaning in life, to be philosophical. And then to be more practical, you have to find a new paycheck so you can survive. And that is what our neighbors in America are dealing with, and that’s scary.”

51:45 – “There comes a moment where things do slow down, and you take stock of the situation. And I think that’s the real challenge, that’s what differentiates the survivors from the thrivers.”

56:00 – “I don’t feel like I’m recovering anymore. Now I feel just feel like I’m living a life, even if its different than the life I planned. I don’t have to actively think about improving myself anymore.”

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Thanks so much for listening!