My name is Blake Watson. I was born and raised in Dallas, TX and joined the Marine Corps in March 2009. After a year of training I was deployed to Afghanistan with my team, Third Battalion Fifth Marines. The very first day of operations one of the guys on my team was shot and killed, 150 meters outside of friendly lines. Within the next four days, eight more of my brothers were killed. My battalion would encounter over 1000 firefights in the first three weeks – the most by any unit since the beginning of the war. Although the DOD wanted to abandon the mission for fear of too many casualties, our leaders convinced them that the Marine Corps doesn’t surrender to anyone and we pressed on head first into the fight! Over the seven-month deployment, 25 of my brothers would make the ultimate sacrifice and over 180 of us would be wounded.
I was injured on December 14, 2010. My squad was conducting a routine foot patrol in the early afternoon. We wanted to make entry into a building, but the door was locked so we began prepping explosives to blow down the door. I was the pointman in the patrol which meant I was the first in line and closest to the door. I turned to my squad leader and as my right knee touched the ground and I heard an insanely loud BOOM and something hitting me in the back. I woke up lying on my left side, smoke swirling all around me and the sound of my ears ringing very loud. It felt like I had just been run over by a freight train and the hottest swords on earth being stabbed into every inch of my body. I couldn’t feel anything below my belly button or my whole left side. I knew I had been blown up so I rolled over on my back and remembered thinking ‘this was it’. My life didn’t pass before my eyes, but anyone who had ever been important in my life was on my mind in that moment. My team provided medical attention immediately and the vehicles were waiting on me when my team got me to the road. I encountered many obstacles during my recovery that could have ended my story, but none of them did.
I spent over a month as an inpatient in Bethesda, Maryland having surgeries every other day for the first 3 weeks. Then I was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. I spent the next three years of my life trying to make sense of what happened and find my new purpose in life. After medically retiring and returning to the Dallas area, I had an even a harder time finding motivation and a sense of purpose. I questioned how someone with my skill set and only one leg would provide for his family. After sitting on the couch for six months battling with myself every day to even wake up, a good friend of mine told me about this guy, David Vobora, who he had recently met. He said he was a retired NFL linebacker and has a gym where he trains adaptive athletes. Realizing I had nothing else better to do that day, I decided to see what it was all about. Now I wake up every single day inspired, motivated and driven! I have a sense of purpose again, even if it is just going to work out for an hour, three times a week. ATF has instilled confidence back into my life as well as given me the opportunity to give back to the organization through volunteering in filming and editing.
Now, instead of serving from behind the sight of a rifle, I am now serving from behind the lens of a camera. ATF hired me as their Media Director and now I have the honor to tell our athletes stories and continue my service. Through this opportunity I have learned that even though my physical appearance has been altered, I am still the same person, if not a better version. I can’t thank the Adaptive Training Foundation enough for giving me a new purpose and helping me redefine my limits.