Dynamic speaker inspires club

By Bruce WatsonCOM-Watson Column Bleill

On Aug. 20, almost 70 members of the Westfield Rotary Club heard a truly moving and inspirational presentation by retired US Marine and Iraq War veteran, Josh Bleill. Bleill joined the Marines in 2003 at the age of 27 as a result of his strong conviction to serve his country by protecting it from terrorist activity like that which occurred on 9/11. He met the challenges of boot camp, competing with young men eight to 10 years his junior, but his determination pulled him through. After boot camp, he joined the National Guard, and was called up for active duty in Iraq in 2006.

On Oct. 15, 2006, while on combat patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, an IED struck his Humvee, tearing through the vehicle and killing two of his fellow Marines. Two of his fellow Marines dragged him to safety and bound his wounds, which he credits with saving his life. Bleill awoke five days later in an Army hospital in Germany to learn of the catastrophic loss of his two friends and both of his legs. His physical recovery was a great challenge, but not nearly as much as his mental recovery. Bleill never left his hospital room for three months. Having been a football player and an athlete all his life, he did not want anyone to see him in as an amputee in a wheelchair.

Bleill credits his miraculous psychological recovery to a supportive family, prayers and support from veterans organizations, whose members visited him in the hospital continually giving him support and encouragement. He was fitted with prosthetic legs and learned to walk again, only to be set back by an infection that had set into his legs, necessitating additional amputation. After more physical recovery, he was again fitted with prosthetic legs and had to learn to walk for the third time in his life.

His life took a turn for the better when he was visited by the Colts players and Jim Irsay following their Super Bowl victory while on a visit to the White House. Irsay told the Greenfield native that he would give him a job when he was well enough to return to work. After two long years of recovery, the Colts organization held true to its word and hired Bleill to become its community spokesperson. He shares his amazing inspirational story of facing and overcoming extreme challenges and adversity, and moving forward with life, during speaking engagements all around the country. Readers also will truly be inspired by reading his book, “One Step at a Time.”

Bruce Watson is a member of the Rotary Club of Westfield and previously served as president last term. For more information on the club, visit westfieldrotary.net or call 250-7276.