In December 2005, Sergeant Noah Galloway was deployed on his second tour of duty in Iraq when his life changed forever. An IED took his left arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee. Unconscious for five days, he awoke on Christmas Eve to a sobering new reality: months of physical rehabilitation as well as emotional scars that included depression, withdrawal and self-medicating with alcohol—quite a decline from the motivated competitive athlete he’d been.
Realizing he wasn’t going to let his loss define him, Galloway turned his life around to become a competitive adventure racer in Spartan and Tough Mudder events, a personal trainer and motivational speaker. Now he’s taking his inspirational message to the unlikely—and for him, totally unfamiliar—forum of the dance floor as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars (Mondays at 8/9c, beginning tonight).
He explains how he did it—and why he wants that cheesy mirror ball—in this candid conversation.
“I may never be rich and famous, but if I can always be giving back and doing more for my community and veterans and those that are in need, then I am doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Under the circumstances, self-pity is understandable. But how did you get out of it?
It was a slow progression. I realized that I wasn’t being a very good father and that needed to change. Every time I’d look at myself and see my injuries I got bitter and angry and I’d want to drink more. But there was one impactful moment I had in front of the mirror. I was always into fitness before I got injured and one day I decided I needed to quit looking at what I was missing and focus on what I still had left.
Because I was so into fitness before, I saw that as what I needed to do to get back to who I was. Even though there was nothing online or in books or magazines about how to get in shape with missing limbs, I started [training] and it excited me. It reminded me of when I first got into fitness when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was like, ‘Wow, I’m learning new things again.’ I started doing marathons, all sorts of races to challenge myself. I’m an adrenaline junkie. If there’s a challenge I want to go after it.