Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana


December 17, 2013

Marine triumphs over war wounds


It was time to get “these crazy, robotic legs.” What they didn’t tell the Hoosier was that while he learned to use them, the first set would be very short. “I was 4 feet tall!”

“As I stood there, I slowly started to realize I didn’t know how to walk in prosthetic legs … I couldn’t take a single step” because he was so weak. Back in his room, Bleill found letters and packages offering encouragement. “‘We’re praying for you. We know you can do this.’” He thought, “If other people believe in me … I can try again.”

The speaker continued, “It took me five days before I took one single step … It gave me the hope that I could do this.”

Bleill met President George W. Bush and, after the Super Bowl, Colts Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai, “as nice as can be,” there for a trip to the White House. As it turns out, Colts owner Jim Irsay and Bleill had gone to the same gym years before. A mutual friend kept Irsay up on the Marine’s progress. Irsay arrived bedside and offered to fly him home. Then he added, “‘When you get there, come see me about a job.’”

Bleill felt ready to walk off the plane and planned to return to Indiana, but soon he experienced pain after walking a few steps, caused by leg infections. He was told, “‘We’re going to have to amputate again.’” The war veteran was incredulous. “‘I’m going to start over from scratch?’” Ever positive and with “an amazing support system,” he had the surgery, spent three more months in a wheelchair “and learned to walk again for the third time in my life.”

After 22 months in hospitals, he arrived home and was interviewed by Colts officials. They announced, “‘We want to honor that promise Jim made you and give you a job at the Indianapolis Colts.’” Bleill was ecstatic until he learned it was to be a public speaker. “I blurted out, ‘I hate public speaking.’” He told himself, “‘You’ve got to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.’”

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