Noah Galloway: Living with No Excuses

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Just three months into his second tour of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Midfield, Alabama native Noah Galloway suffered a life-changing injury — his Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device. He remained unconscious for five days and faced a long time in recovery and rehabilitation.

Galloway eventually set a goal to get back in shape, be healthier and inspire others. He gained fame appearing on the cover of Men’s Health magazine and the hit TV show Dancing with the Stars. His new book is out this week and it’s called Living with No Excuses: The Remarkable Rebirth of an America Soldier While Galloway doesn’t remember the day of the explosion, as he tells Greg Bass, his injuries are all too vivid.

When I got hit, it took my left arm off immediately. It shattered my jaw, my right hand had some injuries, my right leg had a lot of injuries. My left leg was so bad they had to remove it above the knee. So, I’m considered above the knee but I have my entire femur bone. But those are the injuries that I took and between my right leg and all the injuries that it went through like when I woke up in the hospital, there was no feeling in it. And then having my mouth wired shut and two of my limbs gone, I mean it was— the physical was tough, but the mental and emotional side of things, to have that kind of injury, is what I really struggled with.

Galloway’s parents did not know the extent of his injuries until they saw him at Walter Reed Medical Center.

They had no idea. In fact, they said somebody from the military would call and say this is happening and that is happening. One day they called and said, they’re working on his right leg and my mom said, what about his left leg? And the guy said, I don’t know. This is a guy who was just told, we’re working on his right leg. He didn’t know what was going on with the left. They didn’t know what they were walking into that first night in the hospital.

His parents were shocked to discover the severity of his injuries.

Me and my mom have talked about it since, and she was scared to death and very emotional. It was tough the next couple of weeks, even a few months. It wasn’t until things started to pick up that I think that my mom was able to finally relax and see that her boy was going to be OK.

Galloway’s father lost an arm in a work accident as a young man so he grew up around an amputee. One day in the hospital while Noah was feeling sorry for himself, his mother reminded him of how his father managed to adapt to the loss of a limb.

I had a moment, a little mini-breakdown, where I was like, ‘Well, how am I ever going to ever tie my shoes again’, and I was just complaining. And she said, ‘Well, your father has been doing it for 20 or 30 years with one hand. Andy, show him how you tie your shoes.’ And I just got so upset because I wanted a moment where I could complain about something and, there it was right in my face to say, hey, this isn’t a problem. But it was good. You know, it was stressful at the moment, but it was good that I wasn’t being coddled. I wasn’t being treated like I couldn’t get things done. It was right there in my face that anything is possible if I was willing to do it.

After he left the service, Galloway became a personal trainer and a workout enthusiast. His passion for physical fitness led him to compete to be on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine.

Men’s Heath has always had a celebrity on their cover. It’s the world’s largest men’s magazine. They decided they wanted to put someone who wasn’t famous on the cover. And 1800 men applied for the chance to be the ultimate guy and be on the cover of Men’s Health. And they narrowed it down, narrowed it down. There was all these different things we went through, and by the end of it, I had won it and made the cover of Men’s Health. And it was incredible, incredible and exciting. But in the book I talk about the fact that it also terrified me.  I didn’t know how to react to it. It was the biggest thing that ever happened to me. After Men’s Health, I went on Ellen DeGeneres, and after I went on her show, the phone started ringing. But that was the big thing that really put me on this larger platform.

His appearances on the cover of Men’s Health and The Ellen DeGeneres Show led to Dancing with the Stars.  

I had rather been in combat than to dance again. I loved it. I loved working with Sharna Burgess, with Deena Katz, with everyone who worked on staff, but dancing is not something I do. And I put a lot of time and effort into it. It was all I thought about from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to sleep. And when it was over, I was so happy that it was over. I am not a good dancer. The fact that I did all ten weeks and came in third place was because America voted for me. And that is what I appreciate and am so proud of. And because of that Sharna was able to tell my story through dance.

For Galloway, the message to readers of Living With No Excuses is that we all struggle.

I really want people to see that life isn’t easy, that there are struggles. And as long as you keep moving forward, that you keep pushing through it, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you put your priorities in the right perspective. For me, it is my children. My children have helped me get out of my depression, my children have helped me make the right decisions. I tell myself, you know what, I’m not out there to become rich and famous. I got out of my depression to be a good father and to be a good example for them. I remind myself every day, and that’s what I talk about in the book is that life is about not having excuses, moving forward and having your priorities straight.